By now, we’ve all seen the ABC/Washington Post showing Donald Trump up 10 points over Joe Biden in a 2024 re-match. Many took the poll with a grain of salt, but few stopped to think what it would mean for the country if Trump won by such a large margin. What kind of mandate will Donald Trump have if he takes back the White House in a landslide victory?
Common wisdom suggests that Trump’s support is stuck in the mid-to-low 40 percent range. He beat Hillary Clinton with 46 percent of the popular vote in 2016 and then lost to Biden in 2020 with the same 46 percent. While voter turnout increased between these elections, Trump’s share of the electorate remained constant while Democrats expanded their share by about 8 points. Since leaving the White House, his favorability has hovered around 40 percent and his polling average remains just shy of the 46 percent threshold.
Given his apparent cap, common wisdom also suggests that a Trump victory would be exceptionally narrow. Trump’s fortunes would inevitably hinge on a handful of swing voters in key states and low turnout for Democrats. Only then could he skate by on another 46 percent victory.
But what if all the common wisdom is wrong? What if the mythical Silent Majority — long dormant — finally finds its consciousness?
If Trump won 52 percent of the vote compared to Biden’s 42 percent — as the ABC/WaPo poll predicts — it would mean a political upheaval of epic proportions. The re-alignment of 2016 was significant, but it was too narrow a victory to shift the tide against the post-Cold War Washington Consensus. Resisting Trump bolstered the personal self-interest of too many in the political establishment, both their ideological commitments and electorally, given Trump’s deep unpopularity outside the core Republican party. The safe bet for the establishment was to stay the course: media propaganda would contain Trump’s appeal, the Deep State would stymie his “worst” governing predilections, and in four years, we’d all get back to “normal.”
New ABC/WaPo poll shows Trump up by 10% vs Biden. Thoughts? pic.twitter.com/t9i9NIEBGC
— End Wokeness (@EndWokeness) September 24, 2023
Trump did not have the broad, popular mandate to take on these entrenched interests, which maintained legitimacy through inertia alone. Their views and pronouncements defined reality itself for tens of millions of Americans. But a landslide Trump victory would mean an end to this inertia, a reverse in momentum marking the finite death of the progressive era.
Sociologists use the term “social imaginary” to describe the set of values, institutions, laws, symbols and myths through which people think about their complete social whole — reality, as they perceive it. In the Trump era, the modern American social imaginary began to strictly conform to left-wing pieties. The notion that the country was both viciously racist and on the brink of fascism became the lens through which millions understood American social reality. Things once considered common sense — national borders, voter security, personal health autonomy, and simple bureaucratic accountability, among others — were reimagined as politically charged, if not outright evil.
A Trump landslide would signal a shift in the social imaginary, not necessarily to the right, but to traditional notions of Americanism. With 52 percent of the vote, Trump would have substantially increased his share of the vote to a solid majority. This could only happen if Democrat and media narratives failed to carry the moral weight needed to stoke outrage against it, as increasingly politically engaged voters came to see them for what they are — lies. Rather than Trump himself, the manufactured response would be seen as the primary divisive force in American life. Trump’s rejection of the status quo would be the new status quo.
A sweeping victory would manifest culturally first. Speaking the obvious would no longer be seen as verboten. Progressive slogans like favoring the bureaucracy (“Trust the science!”) and unchecked immigration (“No human is illegal!”) would come to be seen as laughable, if not deserving of the public scorn once reserved for so-called conservative stances. In a reversal, common sense positions on gender, immigration, voting, etc. would define what it means to be a moral and educated person in the new social imaginary.
With a substantial mandate of conscience, politics would follow downstream. Trump could pursue campaign promises much more freely. Vested Washington interests would surely continue to resist and undermine, but their inertial legitimacy would begin to fall apart under a new social imaginary. Promises to significantly gut the Deep State, currently considered alienating to much of the public, would become a lot more feasible with a public mandate in support. The border wall and a severe curtailment on immigration become more attainable if Washington believes it is in their electoral interest to pursue it.
South Carolina is Trump Country!
In fact, all of America is Trump Country. The American people remember how great life was under President Trump’s policies.
That’s why he’s dominating Joe Biden in the polls.
This primary is over and Trump will be re-elected in 2024! pic.twitter.com/qECR7j47pI
— Marjorie Taylor Greene 🇺🇸 (@mtgreenee) September 25, 2023
As this continues, politics and culture become mutually reinforcing. Permanent Washington will increasingly conform to the new normal.
Some might argue that a Trump landslide would not be a sweeping endorsement of Trump but rather an epic rejection of Biden. But such a landslide rejection of Biden could not occur unless massive new shares of the electorate came to reject the current constructed reality that stands opposed to the Trumpian spirit. The record-breaking turn-out Democrats saw in 2020 was proof that new segments of voters were energized in their visceral reaction against Trump. A proportionate reversal would mean that millions of Americans discovered a new social reality of what modern America ought to be.