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State of American History, Civics, and Politics

Republican Party versus the Trumpican Party: The 2020 Elections

"Thank you Istanbul": A victory poster shows Mr Erdogan (R) and mayoral candidate Binali Yildirim (BBC.com)

When did you first know that Individual #1 would not honor the 2020 election results if he lost?

DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WINS POPULAR VOTE

Technically, that headline is not really a news item. In the baby-boomer era of the American presidency, the Democratic candidate routinely wins the popular vote. The lone exception is the post-9/11 election in 2004. Otherwise the Democratic victory in this facet of the electoral process can almost be taken for granted. Obviously winning the popular vote is not enough to win the presidency.

Nonetheless, the Democratic popular vote victory in 2016 while expected also should generate questions. Consider two commonly asserted claims that combined should have undermined the Democratic popular vote margin:

1. The turnout of black voters in support of the Democratic candidate declined from 2012
2. White Obama voters switched parties especially non-college educated ones.

One might think therefore the chances of a Democratic candidate prevailing in the popular vote would be correspondingly reduced. So if the margin was still nearly 3 million votes, then imagine what it would have been if Democrats had been able to retain these 2012 voters in 2016.

But there is a piece missing. It is not one that has garnered a lot of attention. It is not one that I recall hearing on the talk shows or reading about on blogs or in newspapers or magazines. I am not saying it has not been discussed, only that it seems to have done so minimally at best.

To begin with, although Trump is president whereas Mitt Romney lost in 2012, look at the vote totals.  Trump actually received a slightly smaller share of the vote than Romney did — 45.95 percent for Trump versus 47.15 percent for Romney.

Let’s look at Wisconsin as an example to determine what was going on. This is the state that one candidate famously never visited while it is alleged the Russian violation of the United States may have made a difference. The vote totals tell a more complete story.

In 2012 the Democratic candidate received 1,620,985 votes. In 2016 that number declined substantially to 1,382,536. One might think a 238,000 drop would result in big gain for the other side. Think again.

In 2012 the losing Republican candidate received 1,407,966 votes while in 2016 the winning candidate received 1,405,284, also a decline but of only 2700. However this roughly comparable total to 2012 was enough to win the state in 2016 due to the precipitous Democratic drop-off.

As it turns out, there is more to the story than the presidential election alone. In the Senate election, the Republican candidate won with over 50% and over 3% margin compared to the miniscule presidential margin of .7%. This winning candidate had 1,479,471 votes, over 74,000 more than the presidential tally. That means 74,000 people went to the polls voted for the Republican senatorial candidate but did not vote for the Republican presidential candidate. By contrast the Democratic presidential candidate had about 2000 more votes than the Democratic senate candidate.  When the Democrats went to the polls they voted for both the Democratic presidential and senate candidates; when Republicans went to the polls they did not. Where did the missing Republican presidential votes go?

The issue of the missing Republican voters was addressed in an article entitled “Trump Is Driving Out Precious Voters” (NYT 2/17/19 printed edition). The authors are:

Sean McElwee, Data for Progress
Brian F. Schaffer, Tufts University, political scientist
Jesse H. Rhodes, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, political scientist
Bernard L. Fraga, Indiana University, political scientist.

The article opens with the well-known commonly accepted truths noted above: the Democratic problem with the Obama-to-Trump voters and the loss of popular vote by the Republicans in six of the last seven elections.  The authors then state a caution:

It has flown under the radar a bit [EXACTLY!!!], masked perhaps by the switch of millions of Barack Obama voters into Mr. Trump’s column, but in 2016 Mr. Trump did not receive support from a large segment of voters who pulled the lever for Mitt Romney in 2012.

In fact, the Wisconsin example reported above shows even people who went to the polls and voted for a Republican senator did not vote for the Republican presidential candidate.

The authors suggest based on their data that 5 percent of the Romney vote in 2012 stayed home in 2016. Another 5 percent voted Democratic. They provide no figures for people who voted Republican for some offices but abstained from voting for a presidential candidate. The implication of the numbers the authors provided is the 10% drop-off in Republican voters from 2012 to 2016 was compensated for by the better-known Obama-to-Trump shift by uneducated whites.

Are these shifts temporary or do they reflect the beginning of a permanent realignment. The congressional elections of 2018 witnessed a nearly 9% difference between the total house vote of the two parties. That is a huge amount if extended to the presidential election in 2020. According to the analysis, the authors hypothesize that based on the 2016 and 2018 elections, the Republican Party may have lost more than 40% of the Romney voters born after 1976. Ironically given the front runner status of Joe Biden and the continuing popularity of Bernie Sanders, it is the Republican Party that increasingly becoming the party of old white males!

The authors then ask: “Can Republicans solve their demographic problem?”

They express some doubt. They do so by comparing the political positions of the lost Romney voters with the 2016 and 2018 voters and detect a gap that probably cannot be bridged. Such people might still vote for Republicans at the local level as indicated in the Wisconsin Senate vote but even that becomes problematic when at the federal level all, or almost all, Republicans have abandoned being Republican.

Which of the following actions since the 2018 elections seem likely to win back the missing Republican voters in 2020?

Trump’s shut down of the government.
Trump’s obstruction of justice at least 10 times according to the Mueller report.
Trump’s nullification of checks and balances and assertion of rule above the law.
Trump’s exposure as the biggest financial loser in American history.
Trump’s North Korean lover building more bombs and firing more missiles.
Trump’s claim that winning trade wars is easy is exposed as fraudulent.
Trump’s thriving in insulting and demeaning people.
Trump’s laughter at the “joke” of shooting illegal immigrants.

The Panhandle has replaced Peoria. The old claim of as goes Peoria so goes nation has become as goes Panhandle so goes just enough of the nation to win in the Electoral College without winning the popular vote. In 2000 and 2016, it was not the intention of the Electoral College winners to lose the popular vote. In fact, in 2016 the winning candidate was just in it for narcissistic marketing reasons and did not expect to win at all. The circumstances have changed. Now for the first time in American history, a candidate in a two-major-party election is not even seeking to win a majority of the popular vote or even a plurality. Instead the focus is on the Electoral College. Individual #1 has no interest in winning back the lost Republican voters. That’s because at the federal level, there is no Republican Party, just the Trumpicans.

 

2 thoughts on “Republican Party versus the Trumpican Party: The 2020 Elections

  1. A good piece…perhaps the Dem’s will actually galvinize themselves next year, so that our country goes in a better direction. If not, l do not think America will prosper under Trump’s “stewardship.”
    You wrote a very thoughtful exposition on this matter. I hope enough people read it and learn to think and act property, for themselves…
    I like your blog here…
    Keep up the good work.
    M. DeBonis.

    1. Thank you. I take it you are the Mike DeBonis who writes for New York History Blog and not the Washington Post. Normally I do not distribute the political blogs to the history list which is my primary list.

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