It’s Not Polls We Distrust — It’s White People
Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images

It’s Not Polls We Distrust — It’s White People

No matter how much of an advantage Biden seems to have…

Joe Biden should be the next president of the United States. This isn’t a statement of morality; it’s one based on pretty much every poll about the election we’ve seen so far. A recent CNBC/Change Research poll has Biden leading in six battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. A Reuters/Ipsos poll has Biden up 12 points nationally. In any given election, these poll results would have November looking like a landslide victory for the former vice president.

But if you talk to any Black person about the election, the response is some derivative of “Trump gonna win this shit, watch.” These aren’t pontifications or guesses, these are guarantees. How do Black folks know for sure something that’s the opposite of every methodologically “rigorous” measure? Because we simply don’t trust White people to do what’s right in November.

Charts and graphs can’t ease our anxiety when history tells us all we need to know: When given the choice, America has chosen White supremacy over all other options.

The good news, if you choose to accept it, is that pretty much every analysis of the polls has erased the notion of a hidden Trump supporter too embarrassed to admit they’d vote for him in November. Sure, whatever helps anyone sleep better at night. But we’re long past the point of trusting analytics in the face of immeasurables like one’s personal attachment to the benefits they derive from White supremacy.

Charts and graphs can’t ease our anxiety when history tells us all we need to know: When given the choice, America has chosen White supremacy over all other options. Every step toward progress in this country has come on the backs of marginalized people dragging everyone else along. That’s been the case from emancipation to the Voting Rights Act to the current Black Lives Matter movement. But the 2016 election was the last straw. The moment when we knew once and for all that we were all dispensable in the country’s thirst for a president who valued White supremacy over anything else.

Everything that has happened since has only fortified the fact that Trump has an unrelenting stranglehold on the worst of us. He’s been able to call African countries “shit holes,” cozy up to White supremacists, and send out not-so-thinly-veiled tweets about keeping suburbs White. He’s admitted to lying about the spread of the worst pandemic of our generation, siphoning money from 9/11 first responders, and being totally fine with Russians putting bounties on American soldiers. And through it all, one thing has remained constant, just as it has since 2016: The majority of White people approve of Donald Trump.

That means that any removal from Trump in office will come in spite of White America’s desires. In two months we are faced with the fantasy that White people will do something they’ve never done in American history: willingly relinquish their grip on White supremacy.

So you’ll have to pardon us for not hanging our hopes and dreams on the whims of White folks who have given us no reason to trust their political leanings.

But let’s say that Americans as a whole manage to cast enough votes to theoretically get Trump out of the White House. I say “theoretically” because voting is only the first step in what will probably be the most destructive political dogfight we’ve seen in this country. Before a single vote is cast, we’ll have to overcome whatever wrath Trump unleashes on voters. We’ve already seen him try to dismantle the postal service for the sole purpose of preventing mail-in votes — with the pushback having virtually no effect.

It’s just the latest example of Trump doing things the mythical “rule of law” tells us he can’t get away with — of him proving the absence of an undefined, unseen figure that will somehow bring order despite the fact there’s no evidence of it ever existing. Who knows what will happen on the actual Election Day: martial law, voter intimidation, closed voting locations in Black neighborhoods. Anything is possible. Everything is on the table.

Then there’s what happens on Election Night. Biden, like Hillary, could win the popular vote and still lose, thanks to an electoral college system built for the sole purpose of oppressing Black people. (And one that, coincidentally, this country refuses to disentangle itself from.) What happens if Trump declares himself the winner before all the votes are cast? What if he refuses to allow anyone to count absentee votes? Who knows what the hell he’s planning to do. The uncomfortable truth about Trump’s antics is that what allows him to obfuscate the law is what allows Whiteness to be the American standard in the first place. Asking White people to oust Trump because it’s what the Constitution laid out is to ask them to shed the supremacy that has given them cover for hundreds of years.

Maybe this is all some security blanket I’m covering myself with so that I won’t have the night I had in 2016: alone on my couch while my family slept, my body alternating between hot and cold, goosebumps on my arms, sweat trickling, my eyes twitching and watering. Maybe all this distrust is me trying to save myself from that feeling again. Maybe this country breaks your spirit in ways that stops you from thinking things will ever be better. Whatever the case, when that Tuesday comes around, I’ll be operating under the assumption that White America will continue to protect the man who says the quiet parts aloud — and I’ll be pleasantly surprised if they come through for the rest of us. Even if it’s long, long overdue.