How Can a Voter Be "Undecided" About Trump?

Not low-information, but perfectly-curated information.

1. The Perfect Undecided Trump Voter

There is this weird theory of victory for Trump that goes something like this:

You political obsessive think the rest of America looks at every little scandal the way you do. Well guess what? The rest of America doesn’t know what the Hatch Act is, let alone care about it. They don’t know that Trump told Xi he was onboard with concentration camps. They haven’t heard any tapes Bob Woodward made and wouldn’t trust they were real if they did.

The people who will decide the election in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are low-information voters who aren’t political obsessives. They don’t follow every scandal. They just take a 35,000 foot view of the world and their lives. And they might well vote for Trump. 

I don’t buy this argument.

If you knew nothing about politics and only went by the macro indicators, then your view of the world right now is: Holy crap. Everything is terrible.

Hundreds of thousands of dead Americans. No jobs. No school. Masks everywhere. No normal life. 

And if you know everything about politics, then you aren’t going to vote Trump either. Because you watched Trump’s COVID press conferences. You know about the Russian bounties on American soldiers. You heard the testimony of a string of former Trump staffers saying he’s unfit for office. You saw how Trump sucked up to China and North Korea and tried to extort American allies.

So the Trump theory of victory relies on the existence of a very specific type of voter, in some very targeted places, with very peculiar information sets.

What does the Trump-get-able undecided voter look like?

  • They know about the 200,000 dead and the unemployment, but . . .

  • They have a sophisticated enough understanding of epidemiology and economics to believe that the pandemic was unavoidable and we are heading into a V-shaped recovery.

  • They don’t know about any of the Trump scandals, but . . .

  • They’re familiar with unpopular ideas such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, which make them suspicious of Democrats.

  • They’re not happy with the direction of the country under an anti-establishment president, but . . .

  • They’re wary of going back to the establishment politics that created peace and prosperity for most of the previous decade.

The undecided voter who breaks for Trump has to be a perfectly calibrated individual who knows exactly enough to be open to Trump—but not one iota more.

How is that supposed to work?

The only possible answer is through the creation of an artificial information bubble that is part pipeline and part shield.

Which is fundamentally different from electioneering or campaigning as we have understood the terms for the last several generations.

I bring this all up because it points to what the Trump campaign is really trying to do:

The Trump campaign has no intent to capture “undecideds.” Instead, the campaign is banking on two long shots:

  1. That there are enough people who hate Democrats / the media / brown people that they’ll vote for Trump because of the halo-effect he gives them as a lifestyle brand. 

  2. The influence of the pandemic will create a Black Swan election in turnout, where the number of voters will either be so high or so low as to produce a result totally divorced from all current polling assumptions.

The Biden campaign, on the other hand, is taking a two-track approach: Trying to win over undecideds and cement the party’s bond with recently-disaffected suburban Republicans while also reassembling the 2008 Obama coalition.

If turnout is within expected parameters, then Biden is likely to win if he succeeds with either of these strategies. If he succeeds with both, he is likely to win by a very large margin.

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2. Catholicism Inc.

Trumpism’s conquest of the Catholic Church continues apace. See this amazing piece by my buddy Ed Condon over at the Catholic News Agency:

In an interview Wednesday, the chairman of the Federal Election Commission accused Catholic bishops of “hiding” behind the Church’s tax exempt status instead of backing political candidates, and said that priests and lay Catholics have a “right” to conduct political activity on parish premises. 

Before we go on, I just want to be clear about what’s happening: This is basically the head of Trump’s FEC—who is Catholic—sitting down with a rad-trad interviewer in order to demand that bishops, priests, and Catholic laypeople campaign for Donald Trump at their churches.

With that straight, let’s continue:

The Catholic Church has had long-standing policies against endorsing particular candidates for political office. Experts in civil and canon law explained to CNA why Catholic clerics do not endorse political candidates, and why that issue touches on the religious liberty of the Church.

James E. Trainor, a Catholic, was appointed to the bipartisan commission by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate earlier this year. He spoke Wednesday in an interview with the website Church Militant.

In his interview, Trainor questioned the legal and moral authority of bishops to limit the endorsement of candidates from the pulpit and in the pews.

“I don’t think a bishop has the right to tell a priest that he can’t come out and speak… When the priest takes the vow [sic] of obedience to the bishop, it is in the area of faith and morals, but they have a higher duty to our Lord, and if the bishop is putting something out there that is not right then the priest has an obligation to the faithful to correct it,” he said. . . .

Trainor also said bishops are too cautious about their ability to engage directly in partisan politics under civil law.

“The bishops are using their nonprofit status as a shield to hide behind,” he said, “from having to make a decision about who to support [in the elections].” . . .

During the interview, Trainor also said that in his view, civil law prevents bishops from prohibiting their priests from endorsing candidates.

“If you look at it just from a legal perspective, the priest to bishop is still an employer-employee relationship and that’s the employer telling the employee what they can and cannot do.”

“We don’t tolerate that anywhere else, in fact there has been this huge uproar over NFL owners not allowing players on the field to be able to protest.”

You can read Ed’s piece if you want to see Trainor taken apart.

But the point of this isn’t Trainor’s grasp of either civil or canon law.

No, the point is that the cult of Donald Trump demands total obeisance from its supplicants.

Also: That Trump views the Catholic Church itself as a supplicant.

And finally: That there is a faction of the Church which agrees with him.

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3. Friday Steiner

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