As a professor of and a lifelong student of politics, one of the perks of the field of study is to watch and observe elections in real time as they happen. As a political scientist, opportunities present itself every four years to predict the outcome of a campaign by looking at a variety of metrics, this year is unique in its complexity but ironically offers more insight than most presidential election cycles.
If you choose to stop reading soon, let me skip ahead to the central point: The Black Lives Matter Movement will cause the Defeat of Joe Biden.
Let me explain…
For the last thirty years, the Democratic Party has had four major demographic segments it has been able to gather into its voting coalition – Women, LGBTQ, Hispanic and African-Americans. In 2017, the #MeToo movement was launched in the United States, partially as a response to the election of President Donald Trump. While there have been some successes in rooting out male sexual harassers in the entertainment industry (Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby), the #MeToo movement has not been politically weaponized in 2020. Perhaps the political silence of the #MeToo movement is because Joe Biden himself has a long documented history of inappropriate touching which can be considered sexual harassment.
The LGBTQ movement has made great advancements in freedom and legal protections through legislation at the state level and court cases as seen last week in the US Supreme Court. The decisions of the Supreme Court as recently as last week have helped to de-weaponize sexual orientation from the 2020 election.
The undocumented people of Hispanic descent have also benefited from changes in state laws (2012 Dream Act in Maryland) as well as several US Supreme Court decisions including one last week keeping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to remain in place. While there are serious questions which remain regarding the legal status of undocumented people in this country, the Supreme Court has helped to de-weaponize immigration from the 2020 election.
In my opinion, the only key demographic left for the Democratic Party to mobilize is African-Americans. Unlike the other groups named above, African-Americans have not been the beneficiaries of a Supreme Court case since 2003 (Grutter v. Bollinger) and have not had a federal piece of legislation protecting their liberty and freedoms for over a decade since 2009.
Out of the four key demographics, African-Americans are clearly the most vulnerable, yet the Democratic Party has been a disinterested parent at best to their needs until the last month or so. Did something change? In 2015, Freddie Grey died in Baltimore in police custody. In Baltimore, there were protests and rioting but the protests and riots did not spread across the country. What makes one death in 2020 more important than in 2015? In 2015, there was a hope of another Democrat winning the White House; in 2020, it is fear of President Trump winning re-election.
This brings us to Black Lives Matter and the Defeat of Joe Biden in November.
Winning the Oval means you must win 270 electoral votes by winning a combination of key states. Winning the White House is all about state electoral strategy. Looking at the map, Joe Biden has to win three of the five following states Trump won four years ago – Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The Democratic Party is in a tough situation. Since 1990, it has historically been an uninterested parental figure in the lives and livelihoods of African-Americas, yet it has to mobilize voters in key states to try to win in November. The death of George Floyd has allowed an opportunity to motivate people to become active in speaking up about their grievances. I have said multiple times I applaud and support peaceful protests. Peaceful protesting of citizens should be supported by every Republican who says they love Liberty and Freedom.
The Presidency is won state by state and the problem the Biden campaign will have is how Black Lives Matter will be seen in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Quite simply: the gains in activism by people of color will be offset by the increased number of white folks who will vote to reelect President Trump.
I am from western Pennsylvania and spent a lot of time in eastern Ohio. Over the last month or so, I have spoken with a number of white friends who are experiencing what I would call “the 2020 crisis over-anxiety syndrome” (not a medical term, I just made it up). These individuals are sick and tired of being sick and tired. They are tired of the coronavirus, frustrated by not living life as usual, annoyed in being forced to wear a mask, exhausted over the impeachment and trial of a President, and fearfully prepared for the inevitable invasion of murder hornets. For this political discussion, they are white folks who are tired of being blamed for centuries of racial problems of this country.
It is this resentment which will fuel the reelection of President Trump. The resentment of being blamed for division and cruelty which they have never personally participated in. Joe Biden with his history of racism from opposing school integration, to eulogizing Robert Byrd who was a leader of the KKK and helping to write the 1994 Crime Bill which led to mass incarceration of people of color which is still devastating urban cities across the country. Joe Biden has no choice but to make Black Lives Matter a major issue of his campaign and a key plank of the Democratic Party platform. If they choose to ignore it, they will not have momentum in urban areas in the Fall. If they choose to embrace it, they will alienate white voters in rural and suburban areas.
Biden will have to talk about the disparity between people and the cause of it. Trump will talk about making America great and reviving the economy. The outcome will be a electoral victory for Trump which may outperform his electoral total in 2016.
In 2016, President Trump won 2,600 counties compared to 500 for Secretary Clinton. If the election plays out like I see it, Biden will not even get that close.