Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them David Hume
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity William Butler Yeats
Looking forward, Donald Trump has the inside track to the presidency. Not because the Electoral College is rigged in his favor (which it is). Not because less populated rural America has more political power than more populated urban America (which it does). The reason is the passion of the Trump supporters and the indifference of Biden supporters.
I think of that question: “What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy?” and the answer: “I don’t know and I don’t care.” This sums up what the polls have been telling us all year, the Republican base is fired up for Trump and the rest of us are lackadaisical about Biden and Bidenomics-we don’t know and we don’t care.
According to Nobel economist Paul Krugman “the general point is that you can’t just interpret surveys of economic sentiment, or for that matter, anything else, without taking into account the fact that the modern G.O.P. bears no resemblance to the Republican Party of past years, or for that matter of any political party in recent U.S. history.”
Krugman rightly points out “Last year was a very good one for the U.S. economy. Job growth was strong, unemployment remained near a 50-year low and inflation plunged.” Yet, surveys of economic sentiment show a sour attitude. Krugman blames this on the surveys being skewed by over-representing the Republican base.
But, there are other factors in play. Biden has lost the confidence of the progressive voters in his base for a number of reasons having nothing directly to do with economics. According to a recent NBC news article:
“Voters cited a number of policy areas that disappointed them, including insufficient moves to address climate change and Biden’s inability to fully cancel student loan debt or codify Roe v. Wade, as the President deals with a closely divided Congress. However, Biden’s response to the Israel-Hamas war may be having the greatest effect on his relationship with this voter bloc.”
While Biden’s support base has been fragmenting, Trump’s base has been solidifying. According to an article in The Hill: “The culture war has been raging for more than 50 years, ever since the 1960s when divisions over values (civil rights, diversity, sexual liberation) began to emerge. Those divisions have intensified to the point where today, the defining issues of American politics involve race, sex, religion and education more than economics.”
The article goes on to say: “Right now, conservatives feel like a persecuted minority because of the cultural domination of the left. It has radicalized the right. Donald Trump did something that has never been done before: he brought the radical right to power and gave them (temporary) ascension over the cultural left. Neither he nor his supporters have any intention of giving that up without a fight.”
Recently Charle M. Blow wrote in the New York Times: “In a certain sense, Biden’s age becomes a proxy for other dissatisfactions voters may have with him. Trump is just four years younger than Biden, but he has convinced his followers that his venom is a market of virility.”
With the election now less than a year away the question becomes: Does Biden have the time and the ability to regain the passion of his base and/or will anything Trump does cause him to lose the passion of his base? I worry that the answer to both questions is negative. Is there time for a White Knight to emerge who can free us from this Hobson’s choice? I worry again the answer is negative.
Democracy presupposes the availability of good options from which to choose. This year, at least as things currently stand, the presupposition fails for many voters. Conversely, too many options can lead to a paradox of choice where the abundance of options can require more effort to choose and leave us dissatisfied with our choice.
Oh my! Pie in the sky goes on a binge.