Thursday, November 12, 2020

Hamilton County (Indiana) Continued Democratic Trend in 2020; What if Trump Pardons Everyone?

Indiana Republicans celebrated a good election season as Governor Holcomb was easily re-elected, Todd Rokita won the Attorney General's Office and Republicans maintained super majorities in both houses of the Indiana General Assembly.

In the presidential contest, Donald Trump's winning margin in 2016 was down from 19 to 16 points, but still an easy win.

Over the years, I have been watching voting trends in Hamilton County, Indianapolis/Marion County's wealthy neighbor directly to the north.   The county has several several fairly large cities, i.e. Carmel, Fishers, Westfield, and Noblesville, and the fourth largest population of any county in the state.  

Hamilton County was also known as the most Republican county in the state.  In 2004, President George Bush defeated Democrat John Kerry 74-25 for re-election in the county.  Bush won Hamilton County in 2000 74-24.

But starting in 2008, Hamilton County as a GOP powerhouse began to fade.  That year then Senator Barack Obama received 38.5% of the vote.  In 2008, Republican presidential nominee John McCain only won 60.6% of the vote against Barack Obama.   That rebounded in 2012, with Republican Mitt Romney receiving 66.2% of the Hamilton County vote in an effort to deny President Obama a second term.

The 2012 rebound in Hamilton County turned out to be a brief respite from the long-term trend favoring the Democrats.  In 2016, Donald Trump won just 56.03% of the vote in Hamilton County.  In the 2020 election, Trump's share of the vote was down to 52.2% while Democrat Joe Biden won 45.4%.  

Lest anyone think this is simply an anti-Trump trend in Hamilton County, witness how well the Democrats did in Hamilton County in the 2019 low turnout municipal elections when Trump was not on the ballot..  (Low turnout elections tend to favor Republicans.). Following, that election this is what I wrote about Hamilton County:

  • Hamilton County Democratic Party Scores Council Wins:  The good, no great, news for the Hamilton County Democratic Party is that it won a council seat in Carmel as well as a district and at-large seat in Fishers.   But the Democrats gave up the opportunity for a majority of the six person Fishers council when it fielded only one candidate in the three person at-large race. (I know this might have been part of a deliberate strategy to get the one candidate elected, but don't think there is much data to show that strategy actually works.)
  • Hamilton County Democratic Party Blows Mayoral Opportunities:  Looking at the 2018 numbers, I knew the Democrats could run competitive mayoral elections in Carmel and Fishers in 2019.  But Hamilton County Democratic Chairman Joseph Weingarten apparently couldn't find candidates for the mayoral slots, leaving the Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard and Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness unopposed in their bids for re-election.  The 2019 election results show Fadness in particular could have been beaten.  In my original analysis, I forgot to consider Westfield where Republican Andy Cook was running for re-election in that city.  Cook had no Democratic challenger, only a Libertarian opponent...who received an incredible 39% of the vote.  Cook is, obviously, an unpopular mayor but the Democrats can't when they don't field a candidate.

Let's recap.  In 2004, Republican President George Bush won Hamilton County by 49 points in his bid for re-election.  In 2020, Republican President Donald Trump won Hamilton County by 6.8 points. 

Another way to look at things is to compare how Democratic Hamilton County is versus the rest of Indiana:

Year            HamDemVote          StateDemVote       Diff
2000                  24                           41                     -17
2004                  25                           31.3                  -6.3
2008                  38.5                        49.9                  -11.4
2012                  32                           43.8                  -11.8
2016                  36.7                        37.5                  -0.8
2020                  45.6                        41                     +4.5

As of 2020, Hamilton County is now more Democratic than Indiana is as a whole. 

Democrats tried to flip several GOP state legislative seats in Hamilton County in 2020, but fell short on every one of them except for the state senate seat held by John Ruckleshaus, a seat which cuts deeply into Marion County and Ruckelshaus barely won in 2016.   But the continuing Democratic trend in Hamilton County means it will be difficult to redraw those districts so they remain Republican for the next decade.


OOP's short takes:

  • What I think fascinates me about Hamilton County politics is that I am watching the same progression that I saw in Pike Township (Marion County) two decades ago.  In the early 1990s, Pike Township was 2-1 Republican.  By 2000, the township had flipped to Democratic control and ten years after that was more than 2-1 Democrat. The other northern townships followed a similar transformation to the point where once Republican Marion County is now the most heavily Democratic county in the state.  
  • If President Trump wants to create the maximum chaos during his last two months in office, Attorney Mark Small has a good idea how to do that.  Pardon everyone in federal prison, including those incarcerated for drug offenses.  Mark actually stops short on Trump's potential crazy moves.  While President Trump cannot pardon people for crimes not yet committed, he could pardon everyone for federal criminal offenses that were committed in the past, even if those offenses have never been charged or even investigated.  President Trump could, in fact, shut down every Justice Department prosecution and investigation via the pardon power.
  • I have long argued on these pages that the pardon power Presidents have is not at all what the Framers intended. Back then there were very few federal crimes for which the President could issue a pardon.  The explosion of the federal criminal code has had the effect of vastly increasing the President's pardon power. 
  • I have read the legal argument by Bob Bauer, former counsel to President Obama, and Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor, that the President's sweeping pardon power can be curtailed by a simple statute.  With all due respect to Mr. Bauer and Prof. Goldsmith, I think their theory is utterly absurd.  I might write more on that later.
  • Corey Lewandowski tests positive for Covid-19.  This proves that sometimes bad things happen to bad people.
  • Sadly, the fact Biden will end up with a  decent electoral and popular vote win means any impetus to reform the Electoral College will likely be shelved.  Imagine for a second though, if Trump had won Pennsylvania and Georgia while Biden won Arizona.  That would have meant Biden "won" the Electoral College 270-268, pending an actual vote of those electors in mid-December.  
  • Now imagine ONE of the 270 Democratic electors decided to be a faithless elector (several states still allow electors to vote for whomever they wish or impose just a small fine if they stray) and voted for someone not named Biden, say a person who was not even a candidate.  With 269 electoral votes, Biden would have been denied a majority of the EC vote which means the presidential election would have been decided by the U.S. House, with each state delegation having one vote.  Since Republicans control a majority of house delegations, Donald Trump would have been re-elected.
  • But hey let's not worry about fixing the Electoral College's glitches until something really bad happens.  No reason to be proactive.  It's just the Presidency of the United States we are talking about, after all.

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