I've been going through quite a lot of data - articles, surveys, opinion polls, editorials, and the like - in an attempt to understand the undercurrents of the Presidential election campaign at this time. I don't think I've ever seen such frenzied agitation by, and within, the incumbent party's campaign, or such blatant, in-your-face efforts to scare and/or intimidate and/or disgust the electorate into rejecting the non-incumbent party's candidate. It's almost at desperation level - partly driven, of course, by continued support for Mr. Trump from a significant proportion of the electorate. Sadly, at least some of their slash-and-burn tactics seem to be working.
Let's look at a few examples.
- Trump 'scandals' are popping up almost daily, like new zits on an acne-prone teenager's face. They're so clearly being manufactured, or served up to order, that it's as plain as a pikestaff. No-one with half an ounce of common sense can possibly believe that this tidal wave of negative propaganda is anything other than orchestrated. You can almost hear the opposition campaign managers: "Let's go with 'Trump used locker room language!' What? That didn't work? All right, let's try, 'Trump groped women!' If that doesn't work, we'll try Plan C!" What's more, all the allegations (thus far) are years, even decades old. They're so old that it's almost impossible to prove or disprove those not supported by evidence, and Mr. Trump has almost no ability to respond with any certainty. It breaks down to "He said, she said". There are (to date) no recent allegations, for the obvious reason that they would be easier to prove or disprove. Democrats are, very clearly, working from Goebbels' playbook.
- Establishment figures and media are overwhelmingly anti-Trump, and are coming out with pronouncement after pronouncement that he's simply not fit to be President. During the past week, the editorial boards of USA Today, the Atlantic and the Washington Post have joined the chorus. Note that none of them have said one word about Hillary Clinton's manifest unfitness to occupy any elected office higher than deputy acting honorary unpaid second assistant dog-catcher (said unfitness being demonstrated almost daily by new leaks). The innumerable scandals surrounding her are either ignored, or papered over with a few words. Truth is the first and most obvious casualty of such endorsements. Those making them aren't interested in the truth; they're interested only in defending and advancing the establishment agenda. (We've already discussed the nature of that establishment.)
- Almost every opinion poll is relentlessly pushing the perspective that voters prefer Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. The fact that many of those polls are 'made-to-order' surveys (we examined one particularly egregious example two days ago) is never mentioned. The corruption of the polling 'industry' is widespread and pervasive. I'm not a professional statistician, but I've been trained in the use of statistics in business, to the level of a Masters degree in management. Anyone with that background, looking at factors such as sample sizes, selection criteria, the nature of the questions being asked and the bias or 'slant' built into their wording, and so on, can only have the gravest doubts about the professional integrity of some of the organizations doing the surveying. That bias also goes on to affect the aggregate analysis of all polls, performed by reputable organizations such as Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight. When some of the polls being aggregated are biased and/or otherwise flawed, the aggregate result that includes them must inevitably be affected by that.
Of course, this tide of anti-Trump propaganda and manipulation of the media, polls, etc. is having its inevitable effect. Mr. Trump is not so much fighting an uphill battle as having to claw his way up a near-vertical, icy precipice without any help - even without basic equipment such as ice-axes. It's a daunting task, and I'm not sure he can bring it off. The extent of his challenge is summed up by Nate Silver in this morning's analysis of the current state of the campaign:
Silver's FiveThirtyEight says that Trump is 'still in big trouble' after the second debate, and sees little precedent for a Trump comeback at this point in the race. That organization in particular strives to be professional in its analysis, so such articles paint a gloomy picture for anyone who believes, as I do, that Hillary Clinton would be the worst of all possible Presidents. (That's not to say, of course, that Donald Trump would necessarily be much better; but at least I don't think he could possibly be as bad!)
The best one can hope for is that Mr. Trump sticks to his guns, and continues to stump the country, drawing tens of thousands to his rallies. That's just about his only chance to overcome the media bias against him. If he can persuade enough individuals, and they can use social media and their normal daily contacts to persuade enough of their friends and relatives, an upset may yet be possible. I'm going to be watching the polls very carefully. If Mr. Trump can stay within 3-4% of Hillary Clinton overall, particularly in the swing states and in critical ones such as Florida, then an upset victory for him remains possible.
I also take some comfort from the way polling organizations have got other campaigns wrong, most recently Brexit. If enough pollsters are underestimating his support in the same way here . . . who knows?