Recently, I was having a political exchange with a Republican Party official from Eastern Washington, when he let go of one of his biggest fears for the coming year.
If Trump is ahead, he said, “the next step for the unhinged Democrats will be to declare martial law and try to stop the 2024 election.”
He continued: “Why wouldn’t Obama pull the Biden administration’s puppet strings to (overturn the election)? They don’t care who, or what, has to die to stay in power.
He concluded: “Think about it…where am I going wrong?
I wanted to answer “what is it?” as I often do when I talk about politics these days. Instead, I said, “We have a very different understanding of the facts…it wasn’t Democrats threatening martial law…it was Trump and his people …”
He replied, “Obviously you’ve drunk a lot of Kool Aid.” »
I bring this up so as not to point out how weird my job is. After all, many of you will no doubt find yourself debating martial law or similarly crazy topics as you gather around Thanksgiving tables. It’s part of the American holiday tradition.
I’m telling this because of a new survey of Washingtonians called “2024 National Election Preview.” It was released last weekby Crosscut and Seattle pollster Stuart Elway, who said he was looking to explore state residents’ attitudes about what’s in store next year.
It shows us panicked — and as polarized as he can remember in four decades of local polling.
For example, he asked which of the leading presidential candidates, Joe Biden or Donald Trump, constitutes “a danger to democracy.”
Not surprisingly, given Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, 79% of Democratic voters said “yes” Trump poses a danger to democracy.
But a slightly higher percentage, 80% of Washington Republicans, also responded with the same accusation about Biden.
“It’s an exact mirror image,” Elway said.
Both groups of voters believe “electing the other is going to destroy the country,” Elway said. “That sums up where we are right now. Whatever the worst you can think of them, they think the same of you. How can we compromise or govern in an atmosphere like this?
Washington voters also split into opposing camps along the lines of which candidate is corrupt: 77% of Ds say Trump is corrupt, while 74% of Rs say Biden is more crooked. They are also evenly divided on the question of who is good for the economy or who is a strong leader.
Part of this tribal sorting may be due to what pollsters call “expressive response.” This is when you tell a pollster that you believe something that you don’t really believe. The motivation is to show support for your side or hostility to the other.
Do Republicans really think that Joe Biden is a strong man who would mobilize the military to stay in power?
“Are they really giving us an answer, or are they just throwing a bullet of their own?” Elway said.
So it was notable that there was one issue, and one issue only, on which some voters deviated from groupthink. Unfortunately for Democrats, it came down to whether either candidate was “too old to be president.”
Nearly all GOP voters said Biden was too old — that’s low-hanging fruit for them. But what’s surprising is that Democrats haven’t “responded expressively” much to this one question. About half of all Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters agreed either that Biden is too old or that both candidates are. (Biden will be 81 on Monday, Trump will be 78 next June.)
“It seemed like it was a more truthful response from the Democrats,” Elway said.
A previous Associated Press national poll also found This concern about Biden’s age is “oddly” bipartisan: “Americans actually agree on something in this time of raw discord,” is how they put it.
Elway found that 12% of all voters identified Trump as the one who is too old. But that compares to 37% who said Biden was too old, and 33% who said both were. This puts Biden in 70% of responses. Bottom line: Many more Democrats responded with criticism of their own candidate.
Nothing in the poll suggests Biden would have trouble winning Washington state, Elway said. It showed him leading by 10 points, while another poll, released Friday by the Northwest Progressive Institute in Redmond, has Biden up 14.
“It’s a blue state, and even blue voters say they feel uncomfortable” about Biden’s age, Elway said. “I think what this means for next year is that every time Biden is on camera or on stage, every Democrat in the country will hold their breath.”
Man, these are tough times. Elway said that when he asked all of you to summarize your feelings about the upcoming election, one of your main responses was, frankly, “shit show.”
But this time of year is also the time of wishes in the political cycle. This is the time to fantasize about the rise of new candidates or the formation of bipartisan candidates – possibilities that, for the most part, will not or cannot happen. By next fall, Elway predicts, “Democrats probably won’t be thinking about Biden’s age anymore. They’re going to put 11 on Trump.”
So true. Since it’s time for wishes, here are mine: I hope, for the health of our politics, that Republicans would be as introspective about their candidate’s obvious flaws as Democrats apparently are about theirs.
Maybe one day? That would make it all less…whatever you call it.