“Consider the alternative” does not help you win a presidential election

I have heard a lot of people suggest that Trump still has an unsinkable shot at winning the presidential election – no matter how bad the economic fall-out from the coronavirus panic gets – because he is running against an old dude that clearly has dementia.

That is not generally how politics works. When people are forced with what they perceive to be two catastrophically terrible options, they tend not to vote altogether.

In fact, that is why Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee in the first place. Substantially all of the voters in the Democratic primary were older people, and they voted for someone whom they think looks like them and would represent their interests at any cost. Younger people were like, eh, my choice is between a memory care patient and a socialist, no thanks. And they chose not to vote at all. Because, really, who can say who would be more damaging as president – both Biden and Sanders live in imaginary worlds.

This is not only true about presidents. Matt Bevin, one of the most unpopular governors in US history, made his way into office by winning a Republican primary with virtually no participation and then winning a governor’s race where less than 20% of voters in the state participated. The brick-red state of Kentucky then ended up with a Democratic governor (now a media darling for “flipping” a red state) because conservatives who hated Bevin boycotted the election and Beshear the Younger won by less than 1% of the vote.

Trump is clearly getting garbage advice now and it is contributing to him making catastrophically bad decisions managing the country in a crisis. Alienating people en masse like this might actually be how we end up with dementia patient as president, and God knows who else pulling his strings behind the scenes. This sounds like an over-used Hollywood plot, where an otherwise unelectable woman becomes president indirectly because a crisis opens up doors for her that would otherwise be closed. But our government is increasingly constructed on manufactured realities. It’s a legitimate concern.

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