It’s February 10, 2020. It’s the 117th anniversary of my grandmother’s birth and nine months minus a week until the general election in November. So, what have the two got to do with each other? Or “Parasite” and the Detroit Tigers?
As far as the collective memory and speed of the media, the distance between the birth of Lola Ada Dunn in Bloomington, Illinois, in 1903 and the election in 2020 are about the same. What happens today will be as distant in our immediate past when the polls open, and I’m pretty sure that if you ask the average voter standing in line on November 3, 2020 what film won the Oscar for the Best Picture last night, they’ll draw a blank. That’s nothing against “Parasite,” but regardless of how important the event is to the average voter, if it didn’t impact them directly, the level of attention to the news of today (“Dems in Disarray! Buttigieg clashes with Klobuchar!” “Trump Triumphant in Impeachment!”) is about the same as what was handed out in Los Angeles last night, and when it will really matter is far, far away.
What that also means is that paying attention to polls today and seeing them as the true harbinger of what will come to pass is like betting on the Tigers to win the World Series based on their record in April. It’s fun and may start a long comment thread on Facebook, but it’s not going to really mean anything except provide distraction during a dreary winter. For instance, a poll came out last week saying Trump’s approval rating had hit 49% and the world freaked out that he might actually break through to 50%, and there were pundits who were actually paid for predicting that with such great numbers, he’d sweep 49 states in the election. Well, that kind of talk will certainly sell a lot of patent medicine during the commercial breaks on MSNBC, but real pollsters know that one poll doth not make an election and that a true scientific reading would include all polls put together in an aggregate. To make one poll the harbinger is like saying winning a four-game series against the Yankees means they’ll win it all.
For those of you who really need to know, though, Trump’s aggregate polling has him at 43% approval rating as of last Friday.
Notice that green line, which is his approval rating since his inauguration. He has been under water since the day he took office, and hasn’t gotten anywhere close to 50% since then. So that one poll that got all the attention last weekend and caused agita among all the Very Serious People was an outlier: one of those little green dots among the many. To make that the story of the week is about the same as giving the Cy Young award to a pitcher who closed out with a single win in April.
That doesn’t mean that everybody can breathe easily and start planning for the Democrats to sweep into power. We know that the GOP will do everything they can, be it legal or not, moral or not, to keep Trump in office and thereby assure their talon-like yet sclerotic grip on power. Democrats have to work especially hard to fight off the scourge of lies and paranoia within their own ranks and basically save both themselves and the rest of us from complacency and placing too much trust in the common sense of the American voter to reject the manipulations of Trump and his minions. We tried that before and it didn’t exactly pan out.
I take small comfort in Trump’s low approval rating other than the fact that even if he does have a base of rock-solid support at 43%, it hasn’t moved significantly since January 20, 2017, and even when he’s had “good” weeks, it hasn’t changed. I’ll wait to see what it’s like in a week or so to see if that clown show at the SOTU has any impact, but if history is any guide, that event has rarely budged a poll for any president, and by November, it will be as distant a memory as 1903.
Oh, and happy birthday, Grammie.