Americans aren’t just fleeing liberal strongholds like California, Chicago and New York in droves. We are moving politically, too. As I often find myself caught in the crossfire of the culture wars, I also find myself at the crossroads of this migration.
Since my last column, headlined ‘Why I won’t vote’, I’ve received hundreds of emails from others who feel politically homeless. I’ve also heard from many who have voted Democrat or Republican their entire lives and, for the first time, in 2020 will vote for the opposite party. Lifetime conservatives are voting for Biden. Independents are being radicalized to vote red or blue. People who didn’t vote for Donald Trump in 2016 are enthusiastically voting for him now.
I even heard from a guy who hasn’t voted since Nader but is coming out to support Trump. Many who identify as ‘politically homeless’ are opting to vote third party or, like me, not to vote in the presidential category at all. (Allow me to clarify something I should have made clear in my previous column: I will be voting down ballot.)
I recognize the limitations of anecdotal evidence. But reading hundreds of emails, one starts to see patterns. My overall gut instinct from everything I’m hearing is that I won’t be at all surprised if Trump wins in a landslide — and that the only person who can beat Donald J. Trump is Donald J. Trump.
The first trend I noticed is that it appears the mainstream media massively overplayed their hand and red-pilled a large portion of blue America. Over and over again I hear the same story. People were locked up for months on end. They socially distanced and gave up working in order to ‘flatten the curve’. They missed funerals, weddings, graduations, school and seeing loved ones die. Then came the protests in response to police brutality and for a moment, it seemed like America was united against the police. But then epidemiologists came out in support of thousands of people gathering. It’s only natural that folks sitting at home started to question the information they were receiving. And then came the riots. Undecided Independents, many of whom were leaning toward Biden, cite the riots as having cemented their decision to vote for Trump.
For many former Democrats, the ‘mostly peaceful protests’ were the pivotal moment that they abandoned the mainstream media and started seeking out other perspectives. They began listening to independent journalists and, more importantly, seeking out the source material itself. One man wrote: ‘I started to notice how a lot of what he [Trump] would say the media would take out of context or frame in a negative way. I felt like I’d been lied to for almost four years.’
We shouldn’t underestimate either, the effect of what I call ‘micro-cancellations’. These are the small fallings-out that have happened in friend groups, social circles and families across America in the wake of 2016. Almost every Democrat who is voting for Trump has a personal story about being ostracized, shamed or losing a close friend or family member over politics. I thought perhaps after Hillary’s loss the left would learn that bullying people, tone-policing and punishing people for wrongthink only turns people off. Oh, how wrong I was. In fact, the left reinforced its bubble, doubled down on calling everyone a bigot who didn’t agree with it or dared to question its logic, facts or opinions, and kicked anyone right of Bernie out of the party.
The woke purity tests went mainstream. Out of a desire to go viral or appear virtuous on social media, fellow citizens are snitching on one another and publicly humiliating each other. Rejection is a powerful motivator and it’s staggering to conceive of how many potential allies the left has managed to alienate in four years; so common is this story that it feels self-destructive. As writer Mitchell Sunderland said to me recently: ‘They are a right-wing recruiting machine.’
This is why, despite his personality flaws, many believe Trump is still the lesser of two evils. The thing Trump has going against him is himself. He is incapable of ‘rising to the occasion’. He can’t transcend his baser instincts because that’s exactly who he is. One conservative voting for Biden said something that stuck with me. He explained that he couldn’t vote for Trump and look in the mirror and pretend that character matters.
In many ways, Trump is a black light revealing the human excrement that stains all our institutions, our politicians, our media and our souls. He’s revealed what’s always been there; we just couldn’t see it. Trump doesn’t inspire us to strive for our ideals. He instead gives everyone permission to be the worst versions of themselves. Even people holding their noses and voting for Trump because they like what he’s done ‘on paper’ express disgust and exhaustion with his constant drama, bullying, hypocrisy, blatant lying, cozying up to QAnon and ass-kissing of dictators. They describe him as a ‘bad and selfish person’ or ‘the biggest piece of shit ever’.
One man summed up the internal struggle people are echoing quite succinctly: ‘I’m voting for the most corrupt, self-serving politician I’ve ever seen because the other side won’t stand up against violence, Marxism and race-baiting. I feel like I’m drowning and, in order to keep from going under, I’ve had to throw my arms around a giant, floating turd.’
This article is in The Spectator’s October 2020 US edition.