By Shivaji Sengupta
What’s past is the prologue…..
William Shakespeare, The Tempest
By the time you read this, there will be 5 days or less until November 3. This election could be the most momentous of our generation. You might say that you’ve heard this statement before. Every presidential election is important; but on this depend our very lives.
Over 225,000 have already died of Covid, with public health experts predictions of worse to come if there are no significant changes in strategy. Health insurance is another critical factor. If, in the worst case scenario, the 6-3 conservative leaning Supreme Court declares the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, almost 120 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will either have to pay far more than they can afford, or lose it entirely. (But even as I write this, may I hasten to add that it is not a foregone conclusion that the Supreme Court will declare ACA unconstitutional). Finally, the economy which has been hard hit by the Coronavirus. These three reasons make this presidential election so very important.
Supporters of Joe Biden are not sitting pretty just because the former Vice President has been ahead in polls, anywhere by four to ten percentage points. Beware Hillary Clinton! They are saying. She lost despite being ahead in polls by similar margins. Despite ending up winning more than three million votes than Donald Trump, she lost the Electoral College. I shall take up this issue later in this article, but before that I need to discuss the election itself.
So who will win, Trump or Biden? After the second and final debate, few aspects remain to be sorted out. Compared to the last presidential elections, there are fewer undecided voters. Consequently, despite a much more improved performance by Trump in the second and final debate, resulting perhaps in a tie, it is unlikely the poll numbers will change significantly. Nevertheless, I worry.
I worry because Trump’s relatively calmer approach to the last debate allowed him to lay some traps. One of which was Biden’s position on US dependency on oil and fracking. Biden has been on record preferring “clean energy” to oil, and has not been in support of fracking. Fracking is extracting oil from rock by cracking it with technology. Environmentalists say that it pollutes the atmosphere. Moreover, burning oil pollutes the air, and technologically advanced countries are looking to other “clean energy” sources such as wind and solar. But oil is still the industry standard, and a massive percentage of the U.S. economy depends on the production and consumption of oil. For Biden to announce forthrightly that he supports phasing out oil may have been honest, but the people of Pennsylvania and Texas will probably not take kindly to it. Hillary Clinton lost Pennsylvania on the same issue.
By the time of writing this column the polls have not taken into account Thursday night’s debate, but when new polls come out I am afraid they will show a shrinking Biden lead. Five Thirty Eight has been reporting some erosion of Black and Latino support for Biden, and movement toward Trump. Although the former Vice President is still ahead in those two minority polls, I worry that if the election is close, Joe Biden may end up losing Pennsylvania and Florida. If that happens then we are in for a really close election.
There is also another factor to consider: Hidden Voters. These are people who do not participate in polls. They quietly go and vote. Overwhelmingly, they are the sixty million who silently voted in the last presidential election, catching pollsters and journalists by surprise. They even took Trump and his campaign team by surprise. Hillary Clinton, who had led steadily in most polls, lost battleground states like Florida, Michigan and Ohio, and lost the election even though she had received three million more popular votes. She lost the Election College.
Shivaji Sengupta is Professor Emeritus, a retired VP Academic
Affairs at Boricua College, and a regular contributor to our op‐ed columns.