I can tell you all right now that unless there is an economic disaster and medical insurance catastrophe, 2018 might not be a very good year for Democrats. We are highly unlikely to win the Senate–indeed, we are likely to wind up with fewer Democratic senators than we have now–and the House might be a wash, maybe a few more Democrats or a few more Republicans, but we will not take the House. We might well expand our governorships, and maybe regain some of the legislative seats we lost last year (I believe we lost a thousand seats across the fifty states, an absolute calamity that few Democratic voters are even aware of). Perhaps if some vast and horrible scandal overtakes Trump then things could be different. Barring that, given how Trump’s supporters are spread across lots and lots of rural and small town America while Democrats are crammed into urban and suburban districts mostly on the coasts, there will be more districts with a Trump majority than with anti-Trump majorities. Rural voters are over represented as rural districts have smaller average populations than urban districts. And of course as far as the Senate goes, small states have the same number of seats as big states. So we will at best chip away at the GOP majority in the House, but in the Senate, 2018 is the year of the rural voter. And as Millennials move to where the jobs are, in the big city megalopolises found mostly along the coasts, the average age in these rural parts keeps aging, and older voters–us baby boomers–just adore Donald Trump. Only a third of the senate is up for grabs, but alas most of the states in 2018 are in those aging rural and small town states where Trump did really well. That’s just the way it rolls. This mess is unlikely to end until 2020, provided we don’t mess that up again. It might not end until 2024, by which time a whole lot of baby boomers will have died off and Millennials will be hitting that age when people finally start to vote regularly. Some candidate who probably none of us have heard of now and is thoroughly progressive will win that year, and our long national nightmare will be over. I’ll be 67.
The electoral college is all about congressional representation. Every state has a base of three–for the two senators and minimum one congressional seat. By themselves a small state–there are seven states with one district–have little electoral influence. But as a bloc they have electoral clout. Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas have 12 electoral votes between them that go GOP almost without fail, as many electoral votes as Washington state yet with less than half the population. But this isn’t as important as it used to be…there are two 3 vote states–Delaware and Vermont–that are solidly Democrat. And when you add up the populations of the GOP’s 4 electoral vote states in the Rockies and Plains, they equal in electoral votes states and population states like Pennsylvania. And a lot of states in the west–Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado–have begun turning regularly blue.
It’s in the bigger states that the Democrats get burned. Were California’s electoral votes allocated on the same population basis as Wyoming’s (plus two for the senators), we would have 202 instead of 55. Texas would have 142. Florida would have 105. New York would have 103. Illinois 68. The problem is that urban and suburban congressional districts tend to be more densely populated than rural districts. The more urban the state, the less the congressional representation. There are thirteen states with an average district size of over 600K people (California’s is over 700K) and only three of those have been reliably red in presidential elections (though at least two of those states, Texas and Georgia, will be purple battleground states within ten years, and probably blue in twenty). And of the 13 states with average congressional delegation size of less than 400K, eight have been reliably red. Democrats as a rule have the underrepresented districts, Republicans the overrepresented. To make things worse, the GOP has gerrymandered a lot of Democrats in some states into huge districts, and themselves into many smaller districts. Ohio’s majority Republican congressional delegation in a majority Democratic state is the most flagrant example….and though it has nothing to do with the electoral college, all those Republican congressmen running for office in their tidy white districts is one of the reasons Trump captured the state this year.
This disparity in congressional district population has been the only thing that has kept the GOP in the presidential game at all. Without it the Democrats would have an overwhelming electoral college majority. Even Trump flipping four reliably blue states this goofy year stills leaves him down by well over a million, maybe even two, in the popular vote. Were congressional districts allocated fairly, the Democrats would gain dramatically in the House of Representatives, and in the electoral college, and the GOP would shrink. Shrink a whole lot. Even so, inevitably, the tide is turning, as rural populations thin out and urban populations expand with kids moving in from the country and immigrants arriving and having 3 to 4 kids instead of the white’s 1 or 2 (or none at all). The white population of conservative suburban districts is aging and dying out (and will be leaving ghostly tracts of four and five bedroom houses too big for modern families) and is not being replaced by equal numbers of their own–indeed replaced by immigrants (think Orange County). The GOP has been overwhelmingly a baby boomer party–we have been the most conservative generation, by far, since the 1920’s–but we boomers failed to have enough kids to keep the ratio going. In another decade or so the GOP will cave in and become strictly regional, much as the original conservatives, the Federalists did. They elected the first two presidents but were gone by the 1820’s, swamped by the immigrants they hated. The GOP too is pretending that only their demographic truly deserve to vote, deserve even to be here. Alas, there are only so many white people born between 1946 and 1964, and the GOP has adamantly refused to expand beyond them. And their kids and grandkids don’t vote like they do at all. The electoral college will turn blue, even if we don’t ever change it.
As for Trump (I’m writing this the Friday after his election, as my fellow liberals still stumble about shocked and weeping, as I would be, if not for all the Prozac), he is the ultimate Baby Boomer candidate, if not a Boomer himself–he’s one of he Silent Generation, believe it or not–and Boomers are at their peak electoral power now. He may be incoherent half the time, but then wasn’t Bob Dylan? And Trump may come off like a loutish New York version of George Wallace, but then a helluva lot of us voted for George Wallace (a shocking number of the Gene McCarthy voters in 1968 voted for Wallace that November, and voted for Wallace in even bigger numbers in the 1972 primaries, especially in Michigan and Wisconsin.) Trump didn’t win many big states in a big way last Tuesday–Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin combined gave him a razor thin 107,000 vote margin, once all mail in ballots were counted (Hillary stomped all over Trump among those who vote by mail). Still, that was just enough to put all those upper midwest minorities and Gen Xers and Millennials with all their college degrees (far fewer Boomers went to college than did) in their place. You betcha.
There are still loads of us Boomers alive (I was born right smack in the middle of the boom, 1957), and we are at our peak voting years, our 50’s and 60’s. People vote with astonishing regularity at our age (you value regularity at our age) and this year we just happened to be angry and in the right combination of states to give Donald Trump an electoral vote majority with the worst disparity of popular votes ever. Hillary had a higher popular vote margin than not only Al Gore, but more than JFK (1960), Nixon (1968) and maybe even Carter (1976.) It’s like if you don’t win the Super Bowl by more than two touchdowns they give the trophy to the losing team. A constitutional shenanigan, really. As Hillary’s numbers are finally officially tallied–which could take weeks in California, where there is a mountain of mail in ballots, millions of them, being counted by hand–the scale of this shenanigan will dawn on everybody, and the notion of Donald Trump having a mandate for revolution will disappear into thin air. You need to win votes to launch a revolution. FDR did. Reagan did. George W. Bush didn’t. Bush is so now loathed by most Republicans it’s hard to believe he was one of their own, with a GOP approval rate above 90%. There’s not much love in the long run for those who win the electoral college but lose the popular vote–when was the last time you heard nice things about Rutherford B. Hayes or Benjamin Harrison?–and in the 2000 election Bush was down only half a million votes. Trump is down by much more. A popular vote deficit of historic proportions. Huge, even. Big league.
Oh well, all us Boomers will start dying off soon enough–the eldest if us are 70 now, and we used to smoke like chimneys–and Gen Xers and Millennials will finally outvote us in, oh, two election cycles. We’ll still vote plenty, of course, all crotchety and conservative, but we’ll at last be outnumbered by all those rotten kids. And you know how they vote, those rotten kids, overwhelmingly blue, in ratios not seen since FDR’s day. Even as they get grumpy and old themselves they will vote probably twice as Democrat as we do now. Certainly twice as liberal. They are the most liberal bunch since the New Deal. The Reagan Revolution was made possible because those original New Dealers were dying off (about three or four years earlier than we will, a whole election cycle). But the Reagan Revolution will fade the same way, as we Boomers die off. We are witnessing its final thrashings now. The New Deal lasted for 48 years, 1932-1980. The Reagan Revolution might last 40 years, 1980-2020. Apparently Reaganomics contained faster acting seeds of its own destruction. But I digress.
There are likely to be none of these absurd vote winner losing the presidency travesties once we are gone, taking the GOP with us. Once the whites only GOP disappears, there will be no need for imbalanced congressional districts. There will be no advantage of farmers having two or three or times as much political pull as city dwellers, or a rancher in Wyoming having 67 times as much electoral vote representation as a writer in Los Angeles. The electoral college will again be reduced to an archaic afterthought, and not a threat to democracy itself. Or so I hope.
(Wednesday, November 3, 2010)
Look at it this way–the combined Democratic increase in the House of Representatives in 2006/2008 was about fifty seats (51, actually). Now the GOP gets them back (they won sixty three). That’s been the trend in bad economic times throughout American history, going back as far as the late 19th century. During downturns, the balance in the house and senate swing dramatically back and forth. Odds are there’s a partial correction back towards the mean in 2012 (the Democrats gained only eight House seats, actually).
And all the GOP did was take one house. In the process they have driven themselves very far to the right and a lot of the new people will lose their seats in two years, like just happened to us. (They didn’t, actually, and gained another thirteen in 2014.) The GOP will now start tearing itself to shreds and the GOP establishment is on a war footing trying to block a Sarah Palin nomination (hard to believe she was considered the leading GOP contender in 2010). Let them go after the health care plan. People will hate them for it. People hate socialized medicine but they love the various elements of Obamacare. Watch what happens.
One of the great things about having only one house (The Democrats still held the Senate) is that there’s not a chance im hell you can get anything done so you can spend your time yelling and being extreme and posing for pictures and engaging in intra-party struggles and helping people run for president. This is no Newt Gingrich/Tom DeLay thing as in 1994. The Republican House majority will get nothing done. They will be playing to their own, which means playing hard right, and Americans don’t like the hard right. The media, however, loves the hard right. You wanna get on TV, scream you lie (which Senator Jim DeMint yelled at Obama in his 2010 Sate of the Union speech).
And there are a lot of nut cases now in the House and Senate. Rand Paul? And who knows whose in the House now. But think of this–Michelle Bachmann is a major player. I mean, that is a dream come true. And I could go on and on. This election is in many ways the best possible outcome for the Obama administration. The right gets to go nuts. The right gets to have a civil war. The right is threatened with the cataclysmic possibility of a Palin nomination and no way to stop it (and note how the 2012 primary schedule favors Palin…..Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, Florida….then Super Tuesday.) The left can go nuts fulminating over Palin. Centrists and indies can loathe Palin even more. The House can only make its presence felt by shutting down the government or trying to starve elements of the Health Care Plan and looking like scrooges. The right can try to undermine banking reform. The right can engage in witch hunt investigations over nothing. The right can push the birth certificate issue. The right sat sit there and watch DeMint and Rubio and all the new Tea Party people scream and yell and avoid reality. And people can learn to hate John Boehner, who is uniquely hateable, beginning with his tan.
Sit back and enjoy the ride.
I am not surprised that Bernie was booed by his own true believers. If you have been looking at any of the Bernie or Bust pages you would have already seen comments from people who think he’s a traitor or a sell out, and lots more comments that were convinced he was still running and would win the nomination. People have been trying to contact superdelegates all week long, thinking they could be convinced to turn this around.
A lot of these delegates have had to spend everything they had just to get to Philadelphia, and a lot of the posts on FB are for crowdfunding Bernie delegates to get to the convention. No effort was made by Bernie’s campaign to help at all, even though he is sitting on millions. So the connection between Bernie Sanders and many of his delegates has gotten tenuous…they came there to support Bernie Sanders the presidential candidate, and not Bernie Sanders the Democratic Senator. His speech to the DNC will be his biggest challenge. He might well be booed by his own people as he is cheered by Hillary’s. Embarrassing….
I’ve been figuring there would be a lot of excitement on the floor for a week now, even before Julian Assange dumped all those DNC emails. Since then, though, the Bernie or Bust pages have gone ballistic, with loud demands that Bernie withdraw his endorsement. I suspect that a lot of people in that crowd of delegates today were expecting to hear just that, Bernie withdrawing his endorsement and announcing he was still in it to win. The boos were by people hearing what they had refused to believe all along, that Bernie Sanders had no attention of contesting Hillary Clinton for the nomination on the floor. The chants of Lock Her Up are no surprise either, as the Bernie of Bust pages are rife with crazy conservative propaganda lately. Breitbart was everywhere. Not every Berniecrat is a democratic socialist. Don’t forget he got all those Rand Paul people, H.A. Goodman being the most famous. Libertarian one week, socialist the next, and then back again. Far more Sanders people have switched to Johnson than to Stein so far. More have switched to Trump than to Stein so far. Maybe this will change now, but some of those booing Bernie today will be voting for Trump, guaranteed. And while the vast majority of Bernie Sanders supporters in the country switched their support to Hillary weeks ago, they are not the ones in Philadelphia booing and chanting in front of television cameras.
It will also be interesting watching how angry Bernie delegates, nearly all of them white, interact with Hillary delegates, a great many of them African American and Hispanic. Progressives might discover a racial divide they did not was even there, one they exacerbated every time they claimed that Hillary’s victory margins–propelled as they were by black and Hispanic voters–were fraudulent. White people angry that their votes did not mean more than black and brown votes. It wasn’t meant that way, but it was often heard that way.
Fun times ahead, maybe. Like I said before, the Democrat in me wants a smooth running convention, but the political junkie in me is thrilled at the prospect for so much excitement….
I suspect Bernie’s demand that former congressman Barney Frank and Connecticut governor Daniel Malloy be removed from the Democratic Platform committee has more to do with his being thin skinned than with politics…both have gone after him in ways that Bernie found upsetting (not to mention effective). Frank has exposed weaknesses in Bernie’s Wall Street reform policies (he was brutal after Bernie’s stumble with the Daily News) and Malloy has been furious with Bernie since Bernie unfortunately sided with the NRA on a couple votes after the Sandy Hook shooting. Bernie lost Connecticut, in part because of Malloy’s impassioned campaign against him, and he earlier lost Frank’s state of Massachusetts. But in particular Bernie got stomped in New York after a huge investment of resources, money and credibility, and doubtless Frank’s incessant appearances in the news after Bernie’s tongue-tied Daily News interview helped with that stomping.
But such an angry demand leaves Bernie’s own Platform Committee choices–e.g., James Zogby, Cornel West–open to demands they be booted on the same basis (especially West, who has been extremely critical of Hillary Clinton and President Obama) and as such it seems less driven by strategy than by temperament. Perhaps it actually is a sign that he, as Rachel Maddow suggested, is planning on forcing a contested convention by any means possible…but I am not convinced this was all that Machiavellian. I just think that Bernie hates the guys. He and Frank, in particular, have been arguing for decades. They have never gotten along and it has carried over into the campaign.
Of course, things like this are also a useful way to drive fundraising, as the Sanders campaign’s already weakened cash flow money will start drying up even more once the primaries are over. The campaign will have to force a series of such confrontations that will get lots of media and social media coverage and keep some funding coming in. The fact that Bernie is making these demands now, before the primaries are even over, is probably not accidental. He is still telling his supporters that they will win all the remaining contests, a belief that is critical in driving social media debate on this. He won’t win all of them, as he must know–he will lose New Jersey, Washington DC and Puerto Rico definitely, New Mexico probably and is still behind in California, where he would have to win his first ever primary in a state with less that 75% white voters–and if he does lose those races, his demands will have a lot less force behind them. So now is the time, as Bird said so emphatically on his horn.
On the eve of the latest Super Tuesday, March 15….
I haven’t read or watched or listened to or imagined any of the news today, but I’ve been assuming Bernie Sanders has had Missouri for a few days now. Maybe Illinois too, as Rahm Emanuel is so unpopular he’ll probably drive some urban votes to Sanders. But Bernie would have to have a huge Millennial turnout, a huge independent turn out, a huge turn out in the suburbs, and 25-30% of the black vote, not to mention a sizable chunk of the Hispanic vote. It’s a tall order but not impossible. But it would bring him close, even if he lost, to splitting all those Illinois delegates fairly evenly. Continue reading
Someone read a blog post of mine and told me it just show who frightened I was of a Bernie Sanders victory. That was weird, I mean why the hell would a Hillary supporter today be frightened? Had the guy even looked at any of the poll data? Bernie’s campaign is doomed. It’ll run for a while, and with fervor, but Bernie has lost the support of the majority of voters. He simply cannot find enough voters to win him the delegates he needs to win the nomination. He peaked in New Hampshire, as predicted (in fact as I said all along, and said beforehand he would, it was so predictable), and collapsed afterward, as predicted. The only surprising thing for me* was that his collapse is happening so much faster than expected. I mean look at Massachusetts. He is behind. He is behind so much–somewhere between 5 and 10 per cent–that the results while not certain for Hillary and very uncertain for Bernie. Bernie should be up 20% there now. Massachusetts is the state where, outside of Vermont, he should be massively popular. Which he is, actually, voters love him. Love him even more than Hillary, who is also very popular in Massachusetts, but those same voters will tell pollsters, over and over, that they would prefer Hillary as president because Hillary has the experience and skills need that Bernie lacks. The problem for the Bernie campaign in Massachusetts now is that after the New Hampshire win Bernie was about 20 points higher than he is now. So any Hillary win, or even a very close Bernie win, will be seen as a Bernie loss. He has to win by a solid margin for it to be seen as anything other than proof of weakened momentum in the most liberal part of the country. The fact that he is desperately struggling to hold Massachusetts is just indicative of just how much Bernie’s momentum after his big New Hampshire win has collapsed.