Sunday, November 8, 2020

Is "Trumpism" Even a Real Thing?; Initial Thoughts on the 2020 Elections

Sitting on 279 electoral votes, with probably another 27 more coming, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, are President-Elect and Vice-President Elect of the United States.  They will be sworn in at noon, January 20th.  

It was a wild election season,   The results, below the presidential level were shocking.  The Democrats were were projected to net more than three seats needed to take control in the Senate and win as many as 10 seats in the House.  Instead the Democrats look like they're probably going to fall short in the Senate.  (Democrats would have to oust two Republican incumbents in the Georgia run-off election to be held on January 5th.)  In the House, the Democrats actually lost seats (the number is still up in the air) and will enjoy the smallest majority in that chamber in 20 years.

President-Elect Joe Biden

Regardless of what happens in Georgia, President-Elect Joe Biden faces a divided government.  I actually am optimistic that during this next year you're going to Biden have a lot of success getting legislation passed. Unlike Trump, Biden has his entire life been a deal maker, someone who can work with Republicans to get measures passed.  I actually expect a lot of bipartisanship during 2021, with Congress passing several pieces of legislation.  Once the calendar turns to 2022, that working relationship will likely sour as both parties get ready to fight for control of the House and Senate in the mid-terms.

As far as Biden's victory, he flipped back to the Democrats the three midwestern states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania (not sure why Pennsylvania is labeled as a midwestern state since it borders the Atlantic Ocean), Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.  Biden also appears likely to squeeze out razor thin margins in Georgia and Arizona, two states Trump won fairly easily in 2016.  The final tally looks to be that Biden picked up five states Hillary Clinton lost in 2016, plus the Nebraska second congressional district.  The irony is that, should current numbers hold, Biden will win the same amount of electoral votes (306) Trump won in 2016, while winning the popular vote by more than 4.4 million. (Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by 2.9 million.)

It's not a surprise that Trump lost his bid for re-election.  It is arguably a surprise that he did not lose by more than he did given his unpopularity, his failure to reach out to voters who did not support him in 2016, and running an extremely poor re-election campaign.  What is surprising though is that Republicans in the House and Senate appeared to suffer no consequences for hitching their wagons to a flailing, unpopular incumbent President seeking re-election.

My assumption has always been that Trumpism would doom the GOP.  Although the President's name easily lends itself to modification with an -ism suffix, that does not mean such an affliction as "Trumpism" actually exists.  Voters seemed very skilled at casting ballots against the unpopular Trump, but then voting Republican in other races.  

Perhaps a clue that Trumpism is not a real thing can be found in the 2020 GOP platform, which consists of an brief expression of fealty to Donald Trump.  Indeed, Trump never seemed to stand for much in the way of substantive policy positions. Instead Trump argued that Republicans should follow him because he is a political "winner," even though he often was not.  In response, Republican elected officials dutifully lashed themselves to "Dear Leader" as voters pondered whether to throw the whole GOP lot overboard.  Then the voters did something remarkable.  They cut the rope attaching Republican candidates to Trump to throw "Dear Leader" over the side of the boat, thus preserving the careers of the Republicans not named Trump.

The election tells me that while Trump is not popular, the conservative ideas those surviving Republicans are supposed to be standing for (and often did not during the Trump presidency) are popular.  Meanwhile, it is apparent that the Democrats continuing its move politically left, is not a winning strategy.  While "defund the police" is a trite slogan which was never meant to be real policy proposal, when voters hear such labels they take takes them seriously.  The Democratic Party should take a lesson from its huge 2018 wins and Biden's victory and moderate its message and policy proposals

While the Democrats have some soul-searching to do, Republicans likewise need to revisit that post 2012 "autopsy."  Republican presidential candidates have now lost the national popular vote in 7 of the last 8 presidential elections. Republicans simply cannot win national elections if the GOP continues to be the party of white men and women.   While gerrymandered congressional districts and the more rural nature of the Senate have shielded Republicans from the consequences of those demographic changes, it is inevitable that GOP shield will eventually be penetrated.

OOP's short takes:

  • As of January 20th, former Indiana Governor and current Vice-President will have to find a new home.  I can only assume Pence will be moving back into the Indiana Governor's Mansion since he declared that as the residence he intended to return to once his service in D.C. ended.  Hopefully the newly re-elected Governor Holcomb and his family are comfortable with their new houseguests.
  • As part of the Trump campaign's flailing strategy to overturn the results of the election, Rudy Giuliani announced a press conference to be held at the Four Seasons in Philadelphia.  Instead of the swanky Four Season Hotel and Resort, the press conference to discuss "election fraud" was held outside at an establishment called Four Seasons Total Landscaping.  Nearby was a crematorium and an adult bookstore.  When you think about it, that actually is a pretty fitting end to the Trump dumpster fire re-election campaign.
  • Listening to PBS yesterday (yes, Mark Small I listen to PBS), I heard a "progressive" activist say that Biden wasted a lot of time and money reaching out to Republican-leaning voters which shorted money Biden could have spent increasing Democratic turnout.  The activist went on to say that a more liberal Democrat would have beaten Trump much more badly than Biden because that candidate would have energized the base and driven up turnout.  .  
  • First, Democratic turnout could hardly been better.  It was the highest turnout in a presidential election in 120 years.  Second, the Biden campaign was flush with money.  It could and did spend money on both flipping Republican voters and getting traditional Democrats to the polls.  And let's not forget, getting a reluctant Democratic voter to the poll is worth one vote.  Convincing a Republican to switch his vote is worth two votes.  So spending some money on GOP outreach made sense for the Biden campaign.
  • Can we finally put to rest the nonsense that having a lot of money is EVERYTHING in winning elections.  So many examples of well-funded candidates losing in 2020.
  • As to my Electoral College predictions, if things currently hold I will have picked the winner correctly in 49 of 50 states.  (I did miss the Maine second congressional district which looks like it will go to Trump.)   I did similarly well in 2008 and 2012.  We won't talk about my 2016 mpa. Likewise, please don't ask me about my 2020 Senate predictions.

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