“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”(Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises)
Donald Trump’s presidency appears to have been a long series of attempts to prove the truth of his 2016 statement, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
And through three and a half excruciating years, Trump appeared to be correct. Neither obvious lies (starting with the size of his inauguration crowds), unseemly corruption, racist rhetoric, or constant scandal had any lasting effect on his approval rating.
Even the Covid-19 pandemic, which his administration badly botched in numerous ways, making the United States the sickest country in the world, didn’t have a major impact.
On May 25, Trump held, as he had for quite some time, a significant lead in the eyes of the betting markets (Trump +8) according to the RealClearPolitics betting odds index. This lead had held up through impeachment, through 100,000 American deaths from Covid-19, even through the President suggesting to television audiences that injecting Lysol might help prevent or cure the disease.
But the election took a sharp turn that day in a way no one anticipated.
Immediately after George Floyd’s murder, the way the betting markets viewed the election changed.
In a single week, Biden pulled ahead (a 9 point shift to Biden +1 on June 5).
One week after that, it was Biden +7.1.
As of yesterday (June 29), the index stood at Biden +23.1. The graph looks like a flat table with a downward ramp stuck at the end:
Some segment of the American people that had stuck with Trump through everything that came before May 25 took a long look at Trump tweeting “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” and decided to switch sides.
This may be our “Have you no sense of decency?” moment, where in an instant, Americans decided that could no longer ignore a populist demagogue’s cruelty and recklessness (then it was Senator Joe McCarthy, today it is the President). That is both remarkable and hopeful.