On this election day, it seems impossible to believe that Donald Trump is within striking distance of the White House.
True, most polls -- including Real Clear Politics and Nate Silver's Five Thirty Eight -- show Hillary Clinton with a narrow three to four percent lead nationally and, in the key swing states, including Pennsylvania and Florida, either below or slightly above a three percent margin of error.
Yet those margins could be even narrower in the real world. That's because state and local officials have ignored court rulings against vote suppression laws, as Michael Wines of The New York Times has chronicled. And, in the last few days,the lawsuits opposing the threatened Trump "goon squads," as University of California Irvine election law expert Rick Hasen calls them, have largely been rejected by the courts in Pennsylvania, Texas, North Carolina and Ohio, despite earlier temporary restraining orders against the ad-hoc poll monitoring. The judges and appellate courts have somehow now accepted the promises of notorious dirty trickster Roger Stone, who got his start in the Nixon White House, that his Stop the Steal squads and gun-toting Oath Keepers composed of ex-cops and former soldiers in open-carry gun states will obey voting rights laws, contrary to what Huffington Post's Christina Wilkie and other journalists uncovered in the last few days.
Even if most of these pro-Trump thugs won't actively harass or intimidate voters -- as Roger Stone promises -- there will surely be a few incidents of violence and threats on Election Day that will "go viral" on YouTube and deter others from voting. There are some analysts and Democrats who believe that the vote suppression efforts and bigotry will spur large turnouts of minorities and other Democratic voters -- but with nearly 900 fewer places to vote because the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, as The Nation's Ari Berman shows, will they be able to turn out and then get their votes accurately counted?
In a web show interview (at the 12:25 mark) with journalist and author, Kal Korff, now with with the India-based English-language international paper, Daily World, I sought to pull together the various political and economic factors -- from vote suppression to declining wages to the weakness and pro-corporate trends of of the Democratic Party -- that have made a Donald Trump candidacy possible, while citing the best journalists and websites to help you keep track of important political and voting trends. Korff, a disillusioned centrist Democrat who is far more critical of President Obama and Hillary Clinton than I am, still supports Clinton in this election as protection against the clear and present danger to democracy and survival of the world (in case of nuclear war) that Donald Trump poses. One option beside voting for HIllary is making phone calls on her behalf from home or volunteering at the polls.
Regardless of all the forces that have brought us to this point, one question troubling many people is: Will this be a fair and accurately counted election?
As investigative journalist and blogger, Brad Friedman, has pointed out, along with Common Cause, NYU's Brennan Center and other experts, our vulnerable electronic voting machines -- even without threats of Russian hacking -- aren't 100 % reliable or, in most cases, can't have their votes even verified accurately, even with the tissue-paper thin print-outs many machines have that most voters ignore. Friedman, Ari Berman of The Nation, Michael Wines of The New York Times, The Voting News aggregated by the Verified Voting advocacy group, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, Steven Rosenfeld of Alternet, and, despite some overheated rhetoric and claims, Greg Palast of Rolling Stone and the BBC are the journalists who most regularly cover vote suppression, GOP schemes and voting machine problems. To report problems call Election Protection, 1866-OUR-Vote.
Yet the economic-driven and anti-Hillary rage of most men, college educated or not; reactionary beliefs of most conservatives; and the toxic, racist, anti-immigrant propaganda of the alt.right -- echoed and amplified by the Trump campaign-- have propelled Trump to the nomination and with a decent shot at winning the White House, especially if Michigan flips in his direction; Hillary's lead has fallen drastically there. The Detroit Free Press reports today: "In Michigan, that 11-point lead [from a month ago] for the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state had collapsed to 4 percentage points in the latest Free Press poll. That's at the edge of the poll's margin of error, meaning that whatever lead she has, it's not a sure one."
Most men, and by large margins, white men without college educations, favor Donald Trump, a driving force behind his campaign's success. These demographics are ably explored in The New York Times article, " Donald Trump's Big Bet on Less Educated Whites," and it's worth looking at the extent of voting participation by whites compared to minorities. Despite the rising percentage of especially Hispanics in the U.S. voting population, as the Times points out:
The largest bloc is whites who have no college degree, and the voting-age population of this group is as large as that of voting-age blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans combined. Mitt Romney won this group over Barack Obama by 26 percentage points, and Ronald Reagan by 31 points in 1984. But Bill Clinton won this bloc of voters both times he ran. In this year's political polls, this group favors Mr. Trump by large margins over Hillary Clinton.
The economic, cultural and political factors that made Trump's advantages with this and other disgruntled groups possible were outlined in a prescient article in May by Huffington Post's Global Editorial Director, Howard Fineman" "Here are 7 Reasons Why Donald Trump Could Win In November." Number 1: "It's the Economy, Stupid." In fact, the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index, which has generally been down in the last 90 days, is an excellent predictor of whether the incumbent party or the challenging party will win the Presidency: it's been accurate in 19 of the 22 presidential elections since 1928. As USA Today reported:
Says Dan Clifton, head of policy research at Strategas: "Stocks are now sending one of two messages. First, the probability of a Trump win is increasing. Stocks are down 4% since August 8th and that has not been a good sign for the incumbent party historically."
Even deeper trends, going back decades to the rise of pro-business, anti-regulation lobbyists and the decline of unions, as recounted in Timothy Noah's book on income inequality, The Great Divergence, helped shape the decline of the middle and working class in America, laying the groundwork for disenfranchised whites to be Trump's
key base of support.
These trends have combined with an effective Republican propaganda campaign against the idea of government -- and the taxes to pay for it -- entirely. In a brilliantly insightful essay in The Guardian, "The Big Con," Ben Fountain explains how the stakes couldn't be higher in this election as a result of the Republican and right-wing attacks on the government that made modern life possible. As The Guardian's subhead points out: "Big government helped make America great but it was so successful its effect has become invisible. Anti-Washington hatred helps only the super-rich and puts progress at risk for millions living with wage stagnation and rising inequality."
Hence, Donald Trump has come perilously close to becoming president.
UPDATE: Among the best websites to track the latest political and election news -- in addition to the front page of The Huffington Post -- is the news aggregator Memeorandum that pulls together breaking news with commentaries from both the left and the right, along with the smart commentary, updates and analysis at The Atlantic.