Dems Misread Their Baseline- And Their Base
As both sides seek to make sense of the stunning results of last week’s election, the temptation is to cling to the most sanguine interpretations while dismissing less flattering realities. Democrats are focused on a host of grievances — a rigged electoral system; voter suppression; FBI interference; unfair media treatment. Elated Republicans have convinced themselves that all is well, despite losing the popular vote for the sixth time in seven outings. Control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue combined with unprecedented dominance in state capitals around the country has a way of obscuring a remarkably close shave. As someone who suffered from an admittedly blinkered perspective throughout the course of the race, I humbly offer some clear-eyed insights about what this election revealed in hindsight.
Demographics are not destiny- at least not yet. For variety of reasons, from proportion to distribution, white working class voters still hold outsized sway. The electoral dominance of Barack Obama is not transferable. His formidable coalition does not simply convey to his party’s nominee, and must not be taken for granted. And in a race between two universally known and overwhelmingly disliked nominees, a restless electorate will err on the side of change. Hillary was viewed as a quasi-incumbent, and the undecideds broke accordingly.
One of the primary conceits of this campaign cycle was that Barack Obama had ushered in a new era in US politics. That his election and re-election was the harbinger of an emerging democratic majority, driven in a large part by a coalition of the ascendant — millennials, single women, African-Americans, Latinos, and others persons of color. While Republicans posted dominant showings in the ensuing midterms, that just served as proof that the electorate in non-presidential years didn’t reflect the country as a whole.
The parties had traded places — once a Congressional party locked out of the White House, Democrats suddenly enjoyed a hammerlock on the electoral college while Republicans had gerrymandered their way to a durable advantage in the legislative chambers. With once-ruby red Sunbelt states growing ever more diverse, Republicans were on their way to becoming a regional rump. Donald Trump merely served as an accelerant for this process.
Public polling confirmed as much- GOP bastions like Texas and Georgia appeared closer than the Rust Belt targets Trump needed to win. Even the Clinton campaign’s strategic decisions suggested that with 270 in hand, they were seeking to run up the score in places like Arizona. The early vote numbers only cemented this narrative. By the Friday before election day, Nevada — once a promising Trump target— was all but lost according to the number crunchers, with Hispanic voters turning out in droves. A similar phenomenon played out in Florida, albeit with less certainty as to the outcome. But the impression was clear: Trump had called down the thunder and awakened the sleeping giant of Latino voters, and now they would be his undoing.
This notion lasted until around 9PM on election night when Donald Trump plowed through The Blue Wall like the Kool-Aid Man wearing a MAGA hat.
Continue Reading: The Blue Wall Crumbles