Someone last night said that in that Georgia race the turn out was high for both Democrat and Republicans, but that the district just had more Republicans (and Republican leaning independents) than Democrats (and Democrat leaning independents). Still, though, it was close. Their side had only a few more votes than our side. I want to see the age data, though. If their side had lots more of the older voters than our side, and we had lots more of the younger voters than their side, then every election cycle in that district there will be less of their voters. This is how districts shift. This is how Glendale, California, for instance, went from being solid Republican to solid Democrat in twenty years. The Republican majority died off. Right now there are still lots of Baby Boomers around. Baby Boomers, despite their Woodstock image, are the most conservative generation since the 1920’s. It’s they who provide the winning margins to Trump and Trumpist candidates. And they are at that wonderful age where they vote as if their lives depended on it. Old people vote way more than young people and even more than middle aged people. That is a basic rule of American politics–old people just love to vote. Boomers are in their late fifties to early seventies now, a giant grey haired demographic bubble of a voting machine. Hence, we have Donald Trump. And wherever there’s a district full of Boomers, Trumpism will prevail. But it can’t last. It can’t even last a decade. Boomers are dying off, and will begin dying off faster and faster. And those rotten kids coming up to replace them are the most left wing bunch since the New Deal. So in the short run there will be lots of disappointments, a lot of elections where Democrats think they could win but get beaten by a wave of silver hairs who almost never miss the chance to vote. Add in the effects of voter suppression by the GOP and it just gives them an even better edge. It’s going to take ten or twenty years before this Trump cancer is eliminated from the body politic. He’ll be long dead and he will still have followers. But eventually they will disappear. In the short term those opposed to him, being that we vote less often than they do because we tend to be younger, will have to make extraordinary get out the vote efforts. Demographics more than any other factor drive voting trends, and voting trends decide elections. You will continue to be disappointed that we cannot seem to win over red districts. But there will be fewer and fewer red districts as the years go by. In the short term, unfortunately, Trump will do incredible damage. I wish there was way to avoid that short of waiting till 2020, but there isn’t. Even if he were to be removed from office, his people would still fill a Pence Administration, nor would a rock ribbed Indiana conservative like Pence make any move to undo much of Trump’s legacy. We are stuck with this for three more years, and it will take an extraordinary get out the vote effort and unity on our part to excise this monstrosity from the body politic. There will be no revolution, no magic wand, nor will Republicans decide they agree with everything we believe in and join us. We will not turn red voters into blue. We will just have to outlive them.
For years I have been harping on the dangers of the electoral college, on how small states and rural populations are over represented in the Senate and House, and how we baby boomers are the most conservative generation since the 1920’s. I could be pretty shrill and annoying about it. Earlier this year it dawned on me that despite all the attention on Millennials, that it is Boomers who are at the apex of political power in 2016. Trying to be more wryly ironic than shrill and annoying, I wrote that we’d have to wait eight or even sixteen years before things really swung against the GOP and conservatism. Which is probably a safe bet. It’s going to be a long, long fight. Just before the recent debacle, when everyone knew it was to be a Democratic landslide and crushing defeat of conservatism, I was wondering how the New Deal had remained the ideology of the land and core of the government for 48 years (1932-1980) but Reaganism had lasted only 36 years (1980-2016). I was wondering what accounted for those 12 extra years that the Left had managed over the Right.
Oops. Turns out it was not twelve less years of Reaganism (or the mutated variants thereof) at all. Conservatives could keep trashing the country for twelve more years…even though they get less votes every election cycle. Democratic candidates at every level get more actual votes, when you meaninglessly add all of them up together, than Republican candidates. There are more voters in the United States who are not conservative than there are conservatives. Yet look who’s running the show. Turns out liberals are over represented in bigger states and in urban areas which means we wind up with less representation per vote. And then there’s the fact that baby boomers vote conservative (despite all their Woodstock Generation pretensions), and they vote more, much more, than people younger than them. That’s true of generations in general, voters over fifty vote at a higher rate than those under fifty, the further you go down in age the less the voting percentage. You bitch about kids too lazy to vote now as people bitched about you all not voting enough then. Indeed, turnout in 2000 was much lower than turnout in 2016….you might blame those lazy Gen Xers for eight years of Bush/Cheney….
It’s just a political fact of life–old people vote more. Old people tend to be more conservative. And this bunch are especially conservative. I’ve always been struck by how the generations preceding the Boomers–the Greatest and Silent generations (who comes up with these names?)–dumped Goldwater in a landslide. They knew crazy when they saw it. But Boomers saw George W. Bush and voted for him. And now there’s Donald Trump, the Boomer president. I had thought George W. Bush was the quintessential boomer president but Trump takes that cake now. Most Boomers seem to embrace crazy. And when America’s older people (the ones below 70, anyway) are from the largest baby boom in US history, while Millennials were spawned in the lowest (and still declining) birthrate in US history, those older voters will be a powerful presence on election day. It doesn’t help that people live longer now than they did in 1980–about four years longer for males, an entire presidential election cycle, meaning your crazy grandpa gets to vote for a president at an age when his own crazy grandpa was long buried. And it certainly doesn’t help that the part of the Democratic coalition that Democrats have such high hopes for–Hispanics–are still voting well below the rate of Whites (and below the rate of Blacks, too). And that so many of the states where Trump did so well this year–and districts where GOP congressional candidates did well–are 80% and more (many much, much more) Caucasian. Even worse that so many of those districts are experiencing a drain of their younger, college educated population–the ones who rejected Trump out of hand–to the coasts, where they pile into larger, urban areas with less congressional representation per capita than their folks have at home. Not to mention those two senate seats no matter how small (or large) the state. Half the United States legislature is based on the notion that the number of voters is irrelevant. The slave south held a headlock on federal policy for sixty years using that two senators per state power. And then in the 20th century the South was able to maintain its ideology of white superiority through that same senatorial power. Eventually the south took over the GOP and with that same small state power has dominated US policy making and resisted the policies of a black president with all the furor and machiavellian genius of John C. Calhoun. That same senatorial dominance means electoral votes out of synch with popular vote. Hence, Trump.
This will not change much in the next four or eight years. The average baby boomer is my age, just coming on sixty, with another twenty years of voting (that is, five presidential elections, ten congressional elections, and about six senatorial elections) left in the average one of us. As boomers get older their voting rate just keeps rising, and it’ll take a decade before attrition–Boomers will die, eventually–surpasses that increasing voting rate and finally drops their numbers beneath those of Gen Xers and Millennials, who will have gotten older and grumpier and more prone to voting by then. Like I said, that is ten years off.. And by then the Hispanic baby boom that accompanied the explosion of Hispanic immigration in the 1980’s-90’s (immigrants always have lots of kids, their kids slow down and grandkids sometimes have no kids at all) will have gotten old enough to finally start voting at a rate approximating whites. Unfortunately they will mostly be in bigger states–California, New York, Florida, Texas–the way the Irish were once mostly in big urban areas that limited their political impact, but nonetheless, it will help to chip away at the white GOP majority. The GOP is at peak strength now, unless, somehow, they suddenly appeal to blacks, Hispanics, Asians, women and people under 40. Which is probably unlikely. Hell, just the opposite.
So what am I getting at? Just hold on, this crazy Trumpist GOP surge cannot last. You will not see a series of Trumpoid presidents. Or an endless GOP majority in congress. But it won’t end right away either. They have a solid eight years ahead of them. Unless, of course, there is some sort of Watergate-scale catastrophe. But I’m not getting my hopes up. I am just waiting for the slow change of generations. That is generally what has flipped the political course of history in this country. We boomers are in our last spasm of power now. Sure we didn’t actually win the popular vote in the presidential race. And for sure more people voted for Democratic candidates than voted for Republicans, again. But just enough older white people are in just the right places. Watch how we 52-70 years olds muck it up for the rest of you. Then again, our parents were gung ho for the Cold War and Viet Nam and nearly blew the world up once or twice. Their parents somehow combined Jim Crow and the New Deal. Every age has its issues. We are yours.
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.
(2010, I think.)
So when I got to the polling station here in L.A. yesterday to vote on the three marijuana initiatives I was so stoned I couldn’t remember which one I was supposed to vote for and which two against. All those long words, man, and that crazy legal lingo. I just stared at them for a long time. Like a real long time. I heard someone cough and turned round and there was like a line of people staring at me, wondering why I was taking so long. I kinda freaked out and just voted all three yes. Righteous. Voting for weed three times. Jah Rastafari. But as I left the booth every one was looking at me. I gave the ballot to the dude who gave me a flag sticker which I accidentally stuck on upside down. Detov I. Everyone was still looking at me weird. Well, not everyone, but the dude with the flag stickers, and the old ladies, the guys in line, and the pretty chick with the big, the one who told me I signed on the wrong line. They were all looking at me. They could all tell I voted yes for all three weed initiatives. Which ones were cops? Which ones were narcs? Which ones were gonna tell my prospective employers? I started shaking and asked for my ballot back. I wanted to change my vote to no on all three. The guy said I couldn’t. I got upset and said why not? It’s too late, he said. I started freaking out. You mean they know I voted for all three pot initiatives? Now everybody in the place were all looking at me, everyone, even the incredibly old people who could barely do anything. I couldn’t believe I said that out loud. I might as well have screamed look at me, I am so high!!!! And I was. I mean righteously high. Totally Bob Marley. Insane in the membrane. I split so fast, nearly ran out of there, cut across the lawn and walked home. Thank god I had a bowl full on me. I ducked behind a tree and fired up a good one, keeping an eye out for cops and old people. I exhaled slowly. It felt good. I waited till it grew dark and walked the several blocks back to my pad. Walking felt good. Felt natural. I felt one with the birds singing and the stars blinking and the car alarms. Jah Rastafari. Too bad I’d driven to the polling station.
It was a lot easier when pot was illegal.
So this contest for the 43rd State Assembly District here in our neck of Los Angeles has gotten so twisted that now the mailers for the two liberal Democrats–we get a couple each everyday–are now accusing the other of being Republican. I opened up the mail box today and their campaign mailings spilled out, most of them downright nasty. The hit piece by the PAC supporting Democrat Laura Friedman against Democrat Ardy Kassakhian is quite subtle–pictures of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner and the caption “Ardy Kassakhian’s Republican Party”, on an American flag backdrop. The hit piece on Democrat Laura Friedman by the PAC supporting Ardy Kassakhian says “The Right Wing Problem! Right-wing Billionaires are spending millions of dollars to elect Laura Friedman….”
There have been dozens of these mailings, some positive, mostly negative, and virtually all are paid for by the California Charter School Association (for Friedman) or the California Teachers Association (for Kassakhian). Friedman’s campaign got a head start with the nastiness, I remember, and it took a week or so before the Kassakhian campaign hit back. Since then both sides PAC’s have been going at it with abandon and seemingly limitless funds, and the election is still a week off. This has gone on for several election cycles now, a brutal charter school vs public education war in Silver Lake, where most people don’t even have children.
People have come knocking on our door as well, very nice people, I always tell them we are voting for whoever it is they are working for and they hand me a button and leave. I have yet to wear the buttons, though, they clash with my wardrobe and sense of self-worth.
The robocalls I just hang up on. In fact I just hung up on one now.
I will not like their Facebook pages.
Nothing I can do about the snail mail, though. I pry the obnoxiously oversized pieces from our mailbox and put them right in the recycle bin. More show up the next day. And since I voted by mail a week ago, every one of these items sent to our address is just a waste of a perfectly good tree. They will have no impact on the race one way or the other as far as this household is concerned. Of course, as Kassakhian and Friedman will emerge from next week’s primary as the two leading contenders for the seat, we get to go through the same thing all over again come the fall. Same two candidates, same two PACS, same nasty smear campaigns by the California Charter School Association and California Teachers Association. And while this torrent of postal abuse is unlikely to affect my vote at all, it might leave me pretty sick of teachers by November.