Why I’m worried
October 31, 2016 4 Comments
Andrew Prokop discusses the tightening in the polls as a reason to worry. True. I do have to say I hate the fact that so long as Donald Trump seems to go a whole week without making truly outlandish comments (the Khan family, Access Hollywood), Republican voters seem so happy to come home to him. Talk about short memories.
What really worries me is what Chait has to say:
The best explanation for the tightening of the race was that questions about Clinton’s ethics dominated the news environment for a brief period. We don’t know yet if James Comey’s surprise Friday announcement will reshape the race in a similar fashion. But it is entirely plausible to believe that it will. He has revived Clinton’s ethics and alleged illegality as the front-and-center question before the voters in the race’s final week. To assume Comey’s statement will have no effect, as many hopeful Clinton supporters do, is to assume the voters will respond in a way they have not responded before…
Comey’s announcement is a shocking breach of a vital, decades-old law-enforcement norm prohibiting the announcement of charges against candidates in the closing stages of the race…The logic behind the norm is very simple: Law enforcement has extraordinary leverage over public opinion, and charges, or reports of potential charges, can be tantamount to proof of guilt in the public eye — even if guilt is not proven, and even if no charges are ultimately filed…
Perhaps Comey believed that a properly measured statement would have a political impact proportional to its scale. That belief was delusional. [emphases mine] If there is any circumstance for which the precedent against late charges should apply, it is to the current race. Hillary Clinton is a morally imperfect figure, surrounded by shady figures and burdened with poor political instincts, but she is a normal public servant and no crook. The lack of proportionality applied to her real but minimal ethics failures is staggering. The email issue has completely dominated the news media’s coverage of her campaign, blotting out any attention to policy issues. Low-information voters — that is, the most persuadable undecided ones in the middle — know her primarily as the subject of ethical and legal suspicion. It is why media coverage of her pneumonia and her campaign’s failure to disclose it coincided with her lead collapsing into a near-tie. A voter following the campaign through cable news and headline snippets would rationally conclude that Trump’s lunatic portrayal of his opponent as a criminal is not far from the truth.
Comey’s announcement will probably not sway enough voters to make Trump president. But it might, and — given the stakes — that “might” ought to be a terrifying and galvanizing prospect.