Sunday Smiles


I don't know if this is the result of a preference cascade (when there is a massive shift in public opinion that is self-perpetuating) or merely an interesting bump in the road, but Donald Trump is having a very good few weeks. 


At least when it comes to public opinion and support. He appears to be bored as can be in the courtroom, and who can blame him?

Trump isn't just doing wildly better in the polls than Joe Biden--actually, better than he ever has since he jumped into politics, I think--but he seems to be making enormous headway with traditionally Democrat constituencies. 

Blacks, Hispanics, and Jews are giving Trump a second look, and apparently liking what they see. 

On Saturday, there was a massive Trump rally in the South Bronx, which is not traditionally Trump-friendly territory. For those who don't know New York City (I used to, but it has been decades), the South Bronx is not exactly Republican-friendly Staten Island. My dad grew up in the South Bronx in the 1940s and 50s, but when I visited in the 1970s and 80s it was a no-go zone. 

Not anymore, apparently. 

Now, gathering a few or a few hundred people in a city like New York is not the hardest thing in the world, so one Trump rally (without even Trump!) in the South Bronx is not in itself evidence of much more than a good organizer, but this rally isn't exactly the only evidence that Trump is making real headway with blue-collar Blue voters. 


When we think of Black voters, we tend to think about Black activists, who actually represent a minority of the Black community. While Blacks have been extremely reliable Democratic voters since the 1960s, they are actually not especially liberal. On issues, they often poll to the left of Republicans but also quite right of the average Democrat. 

Their loyalty to Democrats is more historical to Democrats than political, although there is certainly a significant left-leaning vote within the Black community. 

Trump announced that he would hold a rally in the South Bronx next week, which inspired this pre-rally rally. But the shift in opinion among Black voters is likely what inspired the choice rather than his announcement creating a spontaneous shift toward Trump. Trump is going there because there is an opportunity. Not to win New York, but to demonstrate to Black voters that he wants their support. 


Going back to the idea of a preference cascade, it is very difficult to predict something like that. It can only be recognized by looking backward. The 1980 election was a good example of what a preference cascade looks like--Reagan performed much better than predicted because voter sentiment shifted hard to him late in the cycle. There were signs that he might pull it off, but nobody predicted a landslide. And why would they? Republicans were in a tough spot after Nixon and the media absolutely despised Ronald Reagan. 

The swing between the final polls and the actual result was almost 7%. Most polls showed a close or tied race, and some had Carter ahead considerably. That is what a preference cascade looks like. It happened for Trump in 2016, although hardly to this extent. 

The problem with a preference cascade favoring Trump at this point in the election is that it is too soon to ensure his election. A lot can happen between now and then, needless to say. Still, a Joe Biden surge between now and November seems unlikely because of structural reasons, the biggest of which is that his base is crumbling. 

He can't easily address the causes of his collapsing poll numbers. He will remain too old, feeble, and weak-looking, and the economy won't suddenly boom. The world won't suddenly become peaceful, and his party isn't going to unify over Israel. 


But most importantly, voters he needs to be locked in are not locked in--if Blacks are Trump-curious, that is toxic for Biden. Trump doesn't have to win the Black vote--older voters are still locked in for Democrats--he just needs to peel off a few percent and his prospects look very bad. 

So, how durable is Trump's huge bump in popularity? I'll tell you in November, after the election. That way, I will prove to be a genius. 

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