Democrats are certainly right to mobilize against the various attempts by state GOPs to make voting harder and expand the possibilities for post-election monkey business on vote counting and certification. But in the process I fear many are losing sight of the fact that the GOP is not such a beaten and bedraggled party that they can only win if they succeed in this electoral skulduggery. That is not even close to true, a case that is crisply made by conservative Sean Trende, one of the best quantitative analysts on the Republican side. I don't agree with Trende a good chunk of the time but he always provides a useful reality check on assumptions made by the mainstream cener-left. Read, learn and come to terms with just how difficult the Republicans will be to defeat even if their current legislative shenanigans on voting fail.
Monday, June 21, 2021
Reminder: The Republican Party Is Still a Viable Electoral Force That Can Win Elections Even Without Skulduggery to Subvert Them
"[I]f we wish to glean some insight into 2020 that has a chance of standing the test of time, perhaps we might instead start with some narratives or lessons that seem unlikely to hold water. We can start with President Joe Biden’s assertion in Brussels that the Republican Party is “fractured” and “vastly diminished in numbers.”
The truth is that the 2020 election was a particularly close affair — perhaps one of the closest in recent years, depending on how it is examined. Had some 6,000 people changed their minds in both Georgia and Arizona along with 10,000 in Wisconsin, Donald Trump would be president today. Senate control likewise was decided by around 13,000 Georgia voters opting for the Libertarian candidate rather than Sen. David Perdue. The Democrats’ House majority stands at around five seats.
This occurred against a rather grim backdrop for Republicans. In 2020, national gross domestic product dropped a gut-wrenching 33% in the second quarter, the quarter to which many elections forecasters pay the most attention.
The election also occurred against the backdrop of a pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands of people before the election occurred. While some leaders were able to harness the pandemic to improve their lot, often by reassuring the public and providing competent assessments of the pandemic to their voters, Trump seemed at times determined to do the opposite.
Not only that, but Republicans were badly outspent. Sen. Dan Sullivan was outspent 2 to 1 in his bid for a second Senate term from Alaska, as were Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Sara Gideon outraised Sen. Susan Collins by almost 3 to 1 in Maine, while Barbara Bollier outspent Sen. Roger Marshall by almost 5 to 1 in the race for an open Senate seat in Kansas. Republicans were outspent in the presidential race by about $200 million, and overall spending favored Democrats as well.
I march through this not simply to relive the 2020 election, but rather to point out what should be obvious: Republicans had almost everything going against them, yet Democrats basically had to win three coin flips to get their trifecta. This was an election that easily could have gone to Republicans. This is to say: If there is a “big lesson” to be learned from 2020, it probably is not that Trumpism has divided, disrupted, and dispirited the party of Abraham Lincoln.
Eliminating the “Trump destroyed the GOP” lesson is an important step in figuring out what 2020 was about. But another conclusion seems to flow from this, which is perhaps uncomfortable for those who have been appalled by much of the past four years: The appeal of Trump and Trumpism (to the extent those are different phenomena) are genuine. Moreover, among some groups, that appeal expanded from 2016 to 2020.
In an interview with the New Yorker, elections analyst David Shor explained: “Trump didn’t exceed expectations by inspiring higher-than-anticipated Republican turnout. He exceeded them mostly through persuasion. A lot of voters changed their minds between 2016 and 2020.”
Trende then goes on to discuss these voting shifts, focusing on Hispanics but offering remarks on other constituencies as well. Again, I don't buy everything he says here but it is very much worth reading.