TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
OK, I’m tired of beating around the bush, and I’m tired of all the handwringing about Donald Trump.
Yes, he’s bringing out a lot of new white voters, particularly angry white men. Yes, more Republicans are showing up to vote in the primaries than Democrats are. Yes, Trump is the “unexpected factor” that no one saw coming. Yes, underestimating Trump in the coming fall, as Republicans did last fall, is the greatest danger the Democrats face.
All true. And it doesn’t matter one bit.
I’ll give you that six months is an eternity in terms of politics in the United States of America, and who knows what will happen. For instance, if the Republicans’ wet dream comes true and Hillary Clinton (who will be the Democratic nominee) is charged with some offense in relation to her personal email account, then that could upset the apple cart for sure. But I’ll gladly tell you something right now – if it hasn’t happened by now, it isn’t going to happen. It’s just another Benghazi pipe dream that the GOP has, a futile attempt to try and pin something on Clinton.
And here’s why the Democrats are going to win the fall: 1) turnout in the primary bears absolutely no resemblance to what will happen in the fall, and 2) Donald Trump can bring all the angry white men he wants to the polls and it won’t make a lick of difference, because he’ll still lose.
So let’s look at the first point more closely. One of my favorite websites, 538.com, took an extensive look at the correlation between turnout in the primaries and turnout in the general election. Turns out that a big turnout in the primaries does not mean you’re going to be dancing in the fall. All the Republicans, and Trump, will make a big deal out of it, as will the talking heads on the cable news programs and journalists who don’t actually do their homework and just parrot politicians’ talking points. But statistics show it just ain’t so.
It’s the competitiveness of the race that predicts the party with the highest turnout during primary season. It can certainly be argued that up until recently the Republicans had a far more competitive presidential race than the Democrats did. That’s not to say that Clinton and Bernie aren’t competitive with each other, because they are. But if Martin O’Malley had been a candidate who had more staying power than, say a powdered doughnut at a police station, it would’ve been a more competitive race for the Democrats, and more people would have shown up.
In the past six general elections, sometimes the party with the largest turnout in the primaries won the general election, and sometimes it didn’t.
Other factors come into play in a general election. Which brings us to my second point.
After the Republicans lost to Obama in 2012, thoughtful individuals in the GOP commissioned an “autopsy” to get to the root of the party’s problems in general elections. There is no doubt that when you allow people to vote nationally, without any gerrymandering of districts as happens in Congressional elections, trends show that the Democrats are getting stronger and stronger. The autopsy offered a solution to the GOP’s problems – greater outreach by the party to minorities and women.
As Stuart Stevens (the man who ran Mitt Romney’s presidential bid for the Republicans in 2012) wrote in the Daily Beast recently, the GOP seems to have abandoned this sage advice and appears to be on the brink of actually selecting the exact opposite – a man with a history of making repeated demeaning comments about women, and whose recent remarks about minorities can only be seen as horrifying.
Stevens referred to the GOP having the “lost tribe of the Amazon” theory:
“But still the myth survives that there are these masses of untapped white voters just waiting for the right candidate. Call it the Lost Tribes of the Amazon theory: If only you paddle far enough up the river and bang the drum loud enough, these previously hidden voters will gather to the river’s edge. The simple truth is that there simply aren’t enough white voters in the America of 2016 to win a national election without also getting a substantial share of the non-white vote. Romney won 17 percent of the non-white vote. Depending on white voter turnout, a Republican needs between 25 percent and 35 percent of the non-white vote to win. “
The reality is that this 25% to 35% of the non-white vote is a bridge too far for Trump. He has a 77% unfavorable ranking with Hispanics in America. As Stuart notes further, even among Hispanic Republicans his unfavorable ranking is 60%. A resounding 84% of African-American voters take a dim view of Mr. Trump and his campaign. Despite his remarks about how much he “loves” the Blacks and the Hispanics, the affection is not returned.
And finally there is the women factor.
Say what you like about Hillary Clinton and how liberal or moderate she is, the reality is that the chance to elect the first woman as president of the United States is going to have a positive effect on a lot of women voters, much in the same way the chance to elect the first African-American president had on that community’s turnout in 2008. In polls that asked the question who would people vote for in a general election, Clinton or Trump, Clinton’s lead among all women was already 21%, and among young single women was even higher.
But Trump’s problem doesn’t only exist with women who traditionally vote Democratic. A Gallup poll found that more Republican women view Trump negatively than positively, and that the vast majority of Republican women who do not currently support Donald Trump have no plans to support him in the future, and may in fact end up voting for Hillary Clinton, so great is their distaste for The Donald.
None of this comes as a surprise to those Republicans who are aware of the mortal danger that their party is in, which is why they are doing everything in their power to try and prevent Mr. Trump from becoming their party’s presidential nominee. They are well aware that a Trump candidacy not only means failure in the general election, but also that the Democrats will retake the Senate and even have a long shot at the House.
But it’s too late.
They’ve done themselves in already. If Trump is the candidate, they will lose. If they take the nomination away from him in Cleveland at a contested convention, he will run as a third-party candidate, if for no other reason than just to screw the Republican establishment. This will also lead to the party’s defeat. It is a lose-lose scenario, and they are more than aware of it.
For those of us who traditionally vote Democrat it’s not time to party yet. As I said, six months is an eternity in American politics. But if things keep going the way that they are now, we will have the first woman president in American history, a liberal Supreme Court, Obamacare will live on … and the GOP will have to do another autopsy.
Copyright Tom Regan 2016
Contact Tom Regan: firstname.lastname@example.org
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References and further reading:
- There Aren’t Enough White Voters for GOP Win, the Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/03/17/the-republican-myth-of-the-untapped-white-voter.html
- Primary Turnout Means Nothing For The General Election, fivethirtyeight.com
- Hillary Clinton’s Trump card: Female swing voters: LA Times
- Andrew Breitbart warned conservatives about Trump, but he never saw this coming, LA Times
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Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.
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