As election day looms, the entire world is asking one crucial question, and the fate of the free world depends upon its answer.
Many years ago I asked the Nobel prize-winning astrophysicist Brian Schmidt – arguably the smartest man in Australia – if he believed in God.
He replied: “I’m a militant agnostic.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“I don’t know and neither do you!”
As far as metaphysical jokes go, I have to say it’s a pretty good one. It’s also the only possible answer to the question of whether Donald Trump is going to win the US presidential election on Tuesday.
Leaving aside the one-eyed acolytes on the hard left and hard right who are each convinced their enemy is up a creek and bound for a paddling, there is hardly a soul in sight who is prepared to swear on their heart that this election is tied up in a bow for Joe Biden – despite almost every single piece of available data suggesting he is due for a landslide.
The ghosts of 2016 still haunt Democrat strategists, which is why the supposedly safe state of Pennsylvania – Biden’s old home state no less – has more big guns pointed at it now than during the Cuban missile crisis. It shockingly flipped for Trump four years ago but as of mid this week it was supposedly back in the blue by more than five percentage points according to the latest polling aggregate and seven per cent according to the latest poll.
This should be well outside the polls’ margin of error and is even outside the whopping 4.4 per cent the polls were wrong by in 2016 yet still the Democrats are throwing everything at it, including the masterblaster Barack Obama himself.
This is walking proof that not only do the Democrats not trust the public polls but they also clearly don’t trust the masses of internal party polling they are doing every day – unless it is painting a very different picture. And the Keystone State is the linchpin for both the Republicans’ and Democrats’ chances.
In short, anyone who says for certain that they know who is going to win this race is either a zealot or a liar.
Joe Biden is certainly not the most electrifying candidate – nor even at times a lucid one – but the Democrats at least had the good sense to elect someone who is moderate, pragmatic and mainstream. And if he wins on Tuesday it will be thanks to this abundantly sensible choice.
In America, as in Australia, elections are won and lost in the middle. The only difference is that in Australia it is the economic middle, in the US it is the geographic middle.
Even so, the similarities abound. American politics, media and public discourse is dominated by the overwhelmingly liberal metropolitan power states of New York and California but elections are decided by largely small-town mid-western swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – or at least the last election was when they flipped for Trump.
Likewise in Australia public debate is often driven by media and politicians in the affluent inner-city while election results are determined by marginal seats in the outer suburbs.
In both countries this explains the massive disconnect between the assumptions and predictions of the commentariat in the lead up to their two most recent elections and the shock result that followed.
This time, however, the Democrats have taken nothing for granted – in stark contrast to the presumptive and entitled tone of Hillary Clinton’s outrageously entitled tilt for the White House. And it will be this that gets them over the line.
Primary voters wisely rejected the cranky divisive rhetoric of Bernie Sanders, the dripping-wet condescension of Elizabeth Warren and the carefully rehearsed indignation of Kamala Harris. Instead they went with familiar old Sleepy Joe, whom I suspect will be the warm pair of slippers a weary nation will want to slide into after four years of incandescent rage.
In other words, if Biden is elected president next week it will be a firm and considered rejection of the angry and elitist big city left. And, on the off-chance Trump is elected, it will only be a louder and more emphatic rejection. To paraphrase the tagline for Alien vs Predator: Whoever wins, they lose.
The lessons for Australia in this should be equally clear. As federal Labor’s leader-in-waiting Jim Chalmers once said, the answer to right-wing populism is not left-wing populism. Bill Shorten’s disingenuous attempt at the rhetoric of envy was enough to cost him what should have been an unlosable election. Had he stuck to his pragmatic instincts instead of paying lip service to the ideology of the Victorian Socialist Left he would probably be prime minister today.
Meanwhile Anthony Albanese, of whom I remain a friend and a fan despite rumblings within the party, is currently struggling to drag the ALP back to the sensible centre. His future depends on his success.
I have called for this for a long long time and there are many other voices in the party silently screaming for it but cannot afford to do so publicly for fear of being subjected to the vicious backlash of the hard left that my poor Twitter followers are all too familiar with.
But I can promise them and every other despondent voter that a few hundred housebound socialist activists with handles like @Trotsky17 and profiles bejewelled by droplets and pronouns do not speak for mainstream working Australia.
It’s time for the light on the hill to break through the fog.
Joe Hildebrand is co-host of the US politics podcast I’m Usually More Professional and Nights with John Stanley on 2GB from 8pm Thursdays.