The Shape of the 2024 Presidential Election
Barring some kind of miracle, this is the map of how Trump returns to power — and the last embers of hope for America’s future as an intact nation die.
Biden’s victory in the electoral college in 2020 was secured by only 11,779 votes (0.24%) in Georgia, 10,457 (0.31%) in Arizona, and 20,682 (0.63%) in Wisconsin.
These are all states Trump narrowly won in 2016 and — surprise, surprise, are now seeing a wave of partisan legislation clearly designed to suppress likely Democratic voters conveniently concentrated in the Phoenix, Atlanta, and Milwaukee metros.
I correctly predicted the shape of both the 2016 and 2020 Presidential elections and the likely narrowness of the outcome where the pundit class mostly failed. I am certain now that my approach to analyzing American politics is correct and that the 2024 Presidential Election is very likely to be tragic.
Most American commentators are too blind to see that the United States has been on a steady path to internal conflict since at least 2012, if not before. The deeper causes are many, a wicked mix of long-term relative decline in global power plus an economy and society hollowed out by pervasive systems of brutal exploitation plus a political system designed for a different age.
But the long-term trajectory is now brutally clear — especially people from outside the United States and the gravitational pull of its toxic media culture (Stan Grant in Australia and Alex Lo in Hong Kong are two good writers to check out for a partial antidote). The conservative movement in the United States is changing and mobilizing, and even though it does face demographic oblivion soon its power will not be sufficiently diluted until late this decade.
Just enough time to ensure the country breaks apart or even worse, descends into civil war.
The power of the conservative movement has always been difficult to accurately measure because a large number of people who are sympathetic to the kinds of racist authoritarianism the GOP is now whole in thrall to know that their views are anathema in polite society. Whenever you read a poll about Trump or any other republican in a swing state, it is always wise to check the published margin of error and assume the true value is skewed in the conservative’s favor.
This is a function of the fact that it is really, truly, incredibly difficult to study humans in a truly scientific way. I know, because I’ve actually published research in the process of earning a pair of masters degrees and completing as much of a doctoral program as I cared to.
People both conceal their true preferences from others and often don’t even understand their own. So in surveys — assuming you can get people to participate at all — you have to be very careful in how you word questions and even what order you ask them in. Cultural bias is a severe problem that is most impactful when you’re talking to someone about a charged issue — like politics.
Since 2016, wounded by Trump’s relentless personal attacks on the media establishment, most news services, writers, and commentators have published an unrelenting counter-barrage of their own. In this context, you are guaranteed to have, in every poll, a substantial number of respondents who say they are undecided or even say they’re moderate but actually lean conservative — because they instinctively know they’re going against the media trend. After the January Insurrection at the Capitol, the negative coverage of both Trump and his supporters has only intensified, leading to a total and irrevocable loss of faith in the legitimacy of the media.
This subtle form of bias does not override the fact that a historic number of people turned out in just the right places for Biden to win in 2020, or that Trump is, nationally speaking, deeply unpopular. But coupled to the open media cheer-leading for Biden’s campaign as soon as he finally won a primary and its failure to scrutinize his campaign to the degree it did Clinton’s, the dynamic has badly obscured the ability of conventional political analysis to understand how close America stands to a precipice, much less what to actually do about it.
Despite provoking the Capitol Riot Trump retains the support of at least 3 out of every 4 people who voted for him in 2020–50 million people at the least, and probably half the people who say they disapprove of him would probably vote for him in 2024 as a result of peer pressure. These die-hards are now facing daily repudiation in the national media for believing his lie about winning the election, which serves to bind them even more closely to his cult of personality. Their angst is a kind of mass revolutionary movement, and the impacts will last, for better or for worse.
On the state level, Republicans control the majority of the country. Arizona and Georgia have Republican governors unlikely to stand in the way of anti-voting measures being passed by their state legislatures. Wisconsin’s Democratic governor’s term ends in 2022, and the state could well swing Republican again, allowing the GOP to pass the voting restrictions it wants there, too.
Unfortunately for, well, everyone, in American elections the party holding the Presidency usually loses a substantial chunk of votes when up for re-election. It’s very normal— the few remaining swing voters and people angry at the establishment tend to jump ships between elections, and in a two-party system they’ve got no place to go but the other side. Plus some of your former supporters invariably lose enthusiasm when you can’t fulfill all your campaign promises (and no one ever can), so turnout is that much more difficult.
Joe Biden is making a lot of promises he has little ability to keep thanks to an almost perfectly-divided Congress. In 2020, despite record Democratic turnout, the country still managed to slide right thanks to almost equally impressive Republican turnout.
According to the polls done right before the election, around 50% of Joe Biden’s voters backed him only because he wasn’t Trump. Amid the spectacular failure to get the pandemic under control, people (like myself) who are forced to pinch their nose in order to vote for career politicians and serial liars like Joe Biden had no real choice: the risk of a second Trump term was too high to do anything but vote for Biden-Harris.
In 2024, the Democrats won’t be out of power and able to evade blame for whatever has gone wrong. And a lot will. Biden will be wrestling with an uneven economic recovery with distinct winners and losers plus all the fallout left by both the pandemic and Trump’s first term.
The ripple effects are spreading fast — the world has not seen so many simultaneous active military conflicts and threats of conflict in a generation. The United States is now perceived as weak and frail abroad, and every global power is altering its bets accordingly. No matter how much Biden tries to project strength, the total fealty of the Republican party and base to Trump undermines him. It does no good to pretend you have power that you don’t when everyone is ready to test you, yet the new Hamas-Israel war is already proving the limits of his competence and readiness for the job.
Once you pull the “this election is about democracy!” rhetoric out once, it becomes very hard to do it again. It is a safe bet that both the Democrats and Republicans see lower turnout in 2024 than 2020 — but the slide will be worse for the Democrats.
How much and where is the critical question — and that’s where those horribly close margins in states controlled by Republicans come into play. Voter suppression only has to work at the margins to be effective when you can geographically target populations as precisely as is possible nowadays. 12,000 or even 25,000 people is a few blocks in a dense city, hence the effectiveness of setting the number of polling stations geographically and not by population.
And sadly demographics aren’t coming to save America by 2024. The oldest Baby Boomer will be 78, the youngest in their 60s, with the Silents — who appear to have broken for Biden in 2020 — all but gone. The Boomers will remain the single largest generational cohort in the electorate until 2028 — and in states like Wisconsin with populations that are in relative decline compared to the South and West, they’re set to grow larger as young people decamp for more economically vibrant places.
Eventually states like Florida and even Texas may join Georgia and Arizona as being viable Democratic Party electoral college targets, but it isn’t going to happen by 2024 — especially not with the anti-voting laws being passed. Further, the hyper-awareness of extreme partisan differences with respect to basic norms like wearing masks and getting vaccinated against a killer virus is likely to further impact migration patterns. Younger liberals are going to think twice about moving to a place like Florida, while conservatives will avoid the West Coast and Northeast where tighter restrictions are the norm.
These structural factors are bleak enough without taking into consideration the now-real possibility of political violence by white nationalist groups. The 2022 Midterms will be an important stress test of the system, and as they are almost certain to go poorly for the Democrats in the House at the very least after new Congressional districts in Florida and Texas are drawn to gerrymander Democratic voters apart.
But all eyes now will be on just how well the Republicans do. The Joe Biden Administration is, if you look closely, in a severe bind. It needs progressive votes to get anything done — but doing anything progressive sparks universal republican opposition. Republicans are promising total opposition reminiscent of what McConnell did to Barack Obama, so the odds of truly transformative bipartisan anything coming out of Washington is low.
True transformation requires a dramatic localization of government across the country accompanied by guaranteed per-year and per-person direct investment in every county across the country. Local councils can be set up — that’s how it’s done in the UK — to allocate funds to projects their community believes are needed.
But this would break the iron policy triangles that keep D.C. in business and the powerful powerful, so it is unlikely to happen.
Biden is publicly tacking left, but will ultimately sell out progressives in order to pull anti-Trump Republicans like Romney and Cheney into the Democratic camp. To his inside team, who are all college-educated people and can’t put themselves in the shoes of someone who isn’t, it is ideal to pitch the Democratic party as the natural home for anyone with a degree. That’s a profitable bet, given the need for a degree to get high-paying jobs. Among Democrats there is an old dream of becoming the only American party, and this impulse appears to be growing steadily in the wake of total GOP capitulation to Trump, a development actively cheered on by pundits.
But you can’t reconcile Liz Cheney and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the same party. You will suffer an immediate and lasting electoral cost in the form of disillusioned voters angry at the party’s hypocrisy. That has been the cost of triangulation since day one — that, and steadily forcing the conservatives to double-down on becoming a cultural movement rooted in white identity politics.
In other words, exactly what brought the United States here in the first place. Lack of true accountability is fundamental to the American system — and so it is dying, because accountability is at the very heart of a healthy democracy.
The best outcome we can hope for, if Joe Biden is truly mad enough to run for re-election at the age of 82, is that sincere conservative Republicans break off from the GOP and form a third party. In the United States West, traditional conservatives are still a powerful force. A Cheney-Romney ticket could well pick off several critical states in 2024 necessary for a Trump victory without endangering Democratic Party prospects in other swing states.
In a close election, just taking Utah and Alaska from Trump would prevent him from reaching 270 Electoral College Votes, throwing the Presidential Election to Congress which would decide (1 vote per state) the thing. This opens up the possibility of an alliance that prevents Trump from taking power again as Red states would have a legitimate Constitutional alternative to Trump the Blue states might well prefer to him.
Alternatively, either Biden or Trump could exit the scene unexpectedly in the next four years. It is unlikely, unfortunately, that Biden will resign even if it is already fairly clear he knows he won’t be running for re-election (he only leaves that door open because he’d be considered a lame duck otherwise). But if he could set his ego aside he would realize that it is better to let Harris take over in 2023 with his full approval and support. Then, bipartisanship having clearly failed, her administration could begin using sweeping executive powers to do things progressives want (and conservatives can’t swiftly erase) like canceling all student loan debt, which must be done to avoid American competitiveness falling well behind Europe’s in the near future.
A full-throated repudiation of Bidenism and embrace of whatever systemic reforms are possible through Executive Action would set Harris up for an unchallenged primary and an actual platform to bring to the American public. At a certain point, populism can only be challenged by populism — people need to see there is a leader who fill take risks and fight for them, even at personal cost. 30% of the electorate failed to turn out — mostly because no politicians are willing to speak to them, except, perhaps, Trump.
Which is the secret to his power. The conventional wisdom of the Postwar Era is no longer appropriate given the chaotic period we are facing. Bold, if imperfect, visible action is what builds coalitions — that is the lesson of Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party, itself on the verge of securing independence from the dying United Kingdom.
Or Trump could die — who knows, Iran could take vengeance for Soleimani’s assassination by attacking Mar-a-Lago with drones. The resort isn’t far from the sea, and drones could easily be adapted to fly from a commercial cargo ship, so an attack when he’s playing golf might just do the trick. Or Trump could die naturally.
He is, unfortunately, America’s Hitler. And may have the bastard’s uncanny luck for avoiding his deserved fate as a person who deliberately harms others without a shred of remorse.
Trump isn’t an exact copy of Hitler, but an Americanized reboot who will do the same terrible things in a different way, one adapted to the local climate.
Cult of personality, play-acting buffoon surrounded by sycophants, the gangster-like behavior — it’s all there. All personalities like that behave the same — they mimic the mythic “Great Men” American education teaches students to worship.
Hitler measured himself against Napoleon, as the short French tyrant looked to Caesar’s legacy. Trump imitates Hitler in both his manner and management style. And he seeks to achieve the same thing: enshrining himself as a mortal god of history. He won’t go away — he’s had a taste of power, and he wants it again.
Biden’s election won America four years of breathing space, but America’s elites are apparently out of ideas, capable only of kicking the can of reform down the road for as long as possible. 2020 showed exactly what happens when you don’t get on top of exponential curves early on, but the lessons have not been learned.
We are all set to pay the price.
Because what happens when the Democratic candidate wins the popular vote by eight million, yet overt voter suppression gives the electoral college to Trump?
Will states like California and New York accept after the first Trump term proved he is full-willing to shred the Constitution, deliberately pass legislation that negatively impacts their economies, and trash every sacred norm?
When independence and pro-democracy movements are rising across the globe even as they are challenged in country after country by nativist conservatives, it is hard to imagine a disenfranchised West Coast — California, Washington, Oregon, and maybe even Hawai’i — accepting four years of deepening apartheid and economic turmoil, maybe even war with China.
Remember: few thought the Soviet Union would disintegrate like it did. The United States of America is now an anocracy sliding across the precipice of civil war. Everyone should plan and act accordingly.