Anyone who says they know the outcome of the next presidential election should have their heads examined or recognized as rank partisans. The United States is the most divided it has been since the Civil War. The next election, especially if the two aging contenders from the 2020 Presidential Election are again their respective party’s nominees, will be a squeaker (just like the last one).
Both Trump and Biden have an uncanny ability to aggravate the masses in their own unique ways, prompting many people—even those who haven’t voted in years or would otherwise be indifferent to politics—to go to the polls to pick the absolute lesser of two evils (in their minds).
Just Look at 2020
Whatever your opinion on the legitimacy of the last election, the facts are that more people came out to vote than during any previous presidential election. Former President Donald J. Trump received 74 million votes (six million more than he had received in 2016).
Joe Biden garnered 81 million votes (surmounting former President Barack Obama’s historic vote tallies). The reason so many more Americans turned out to vote for their candidate in 2020 was because for most people, choosing between Biden or Trump was a matter of personal values even more than it was about political ideology.
Chic Voting is All the Rage These Days
Should Donald Trump again become the GOP nominee in 2024, again facing off against President Biden, that same paradigm will be at play. In about 20 years, we’ve gone from the “Vote or Die” cult of celebrity craze bringing with them zombie armies of low-information voters to now Americans embracing what I’ve come to call “Chic” Voting habits.
The Chic Voter tends to be upper-middle-class and moderately well-educated. They’re the group David Brooks infamously (and accurately) described as the weird hybrid of bohemian-bourgeois Americans in his early 2000s book, Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There. And they’re the true silent majority in the country.
This group, by the way, hates Donald Trump and will vote for Biden.
The only question is: will this group take the time to vote in 2024 the way they did in 2020? Currently, both Biden and Trump have massive disapproval numbers among most voters.
The Chic Voter doesn’t care about ideology. They tend to care more about the economy. Even then, unlike previous middle-class voters or current working-class people, the Chic Voter cares more about the potency of the image and the self-gratification they derive from signaling to their world their holier-than-though (secularly speaking, of course) virtues.
In 2020, this group didn’t love Joe Biden the way they did Barack Obama. But they feared another Trump term more than they feared the inevitable failures that a Biden presidency would imbue (the failure both at home and abroad we are being made to suffer through today).
All this means is that neither candidate can rely on the great unwashed to put them over the edge. Sure, self-described independent voters can help—or hurt—a candidate.
Ultimately, however, the divided nature of our electorate means that both parties will need to seek to generate support from an ever-decreasing share of voters.
The Campaigns Aren’t Interested in Convincing Anyone Anymore
Rather than convince new voters to hop aboard their campaigns, it is far easier to reassure existing supporters and militarize them against the other side. Thus, national polls showing Biden beat Trump by four points are useless at this point, as are polls indicating Trump will beat Biden by two points.
The fact of the matter remains that most voters will not be making up their minds until much closer to election day. They will vote not only for what affects them personally but also for the purported virtue they perceive from either of the two candidates.
In 2020, more Americans believed Biden was the more moral of the two choices. Trump hasn’t changed in the last three years.
Yet, Biden has a tangible record that is abysmal.
There are other metrics that will help observers to better anticipate the outcome of the election. They include things like where the voters in key swing states are leaning. Presently, two major swing states are leaning in Trump’s favor, should he be the nominee.
Again, though, that could change the closer we get to Election Day.
What’s more, can the GOP party get enough of its voters to turnout to produce higher numbers than the Democratic Party’s supporters do?
And what of these third-party candidates, such as the Green Party’s Cornel West and the independent Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.? How will their campaigns for the presidency impact either the Trump or Biden campaigns?
Get Ready for a Contested Election in 2024
We are not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.
Predicting this next election will be harder than trying to catch lightning in a bottle. National polls at this rate are nearly meaningless, too. This is especially true with both top candidates being so wildly unpopular.
Whatever happens, if Biden and Trump are the two main candidates running for office in the General Election, one can anticipate that the election will be painfully close. And whoever loses will immediately contest the election.
A 19FortyFive Senior Editor and an energy analyst at the The-Pipeline, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert occasionally serves as a Subject Matter Expert for various organizations, including the Department of Defense.