Final forecast here. Good news for the GOP.
Bret Stephens, one of the tame “conservatives” at The New York Times, has an op-ed to which my attention was drawn this morning: “Why Aren’t Democrats Walking Away With the Mid-Terms?“.
Stephens touches upon a thesis that has been enunciated by many. I will come to it by way of Arnold Kling — an unusually sensible economist (e.g., he calls standard macroeconomics “hydraulic economics” and derides the implicit assumption that the economy is single unit — a big GDP factory). Kling has written a book (now in second edition) called The Three Languages of Politics: Talking Across the Political Divide. Here are some relevant passages:
In politics, I claim that progressives, conservatives, and libertarians are like tribes speaking different languages. The language that resonates with one tribe does not connect with the others. As a result, political discussions do not lead to agreement. Instead, most political commentary serves to increase polarization. The points that people make do not open the minds of people on the other side. They serve to close the minds of the people on one’s own side.
Which political language do you speak? Of course, your own views are carefully nuanced, and you would never limit yourself to speaking in a limited language. So think of one of your favorite political commentators, an insightful individual with whom you generally agree. Which of the following statements would that commentator most likely make?
(P) [Progressive] My heroes are people who have stood up for the underprivileged. The people I cannot stand are the people who are indifferent to the oppression of women, minorities, and the poor.
(C) [Conservative] My heroes are people who have stood up for Western values. The people I cannot stand are the people who are indifferent to the assault on the moral virtues and traditions that are the foundation for our civilization.
(L) [Libertarian] My heroes are people who have stood up for individual rights. The people I cannot stand are the people who are indifferent to government taking away people’s ability to make their own choices….
I call this the three-axes model of political communication. A progressive will communicate along the oppressor-oppressed axis, framing issues in terms of the (P) dichotomy. A conservative will communicate along the civilization-barbarism axis, framing issues in terms of the (C) dichotomy. A libertarian will communicate along the liberty-coercion axis, framing issues in terms of the (L) dichotomy….
I do not believe that the three-axes model serves to explain or to describe the different political ideologies. I am not trying to say that political beliefs are caused by one’s choice of axis. Nor am I saying that people think exclusively in terms of their preferred axis. What I am saying is that when we communicate about issues, we tend to fall back on one of the three axes. By doing so, we engage in political tribalism. We signal to members of our tribe that we agree with them, and we enhance our status in the tribe. However, even though it appears that we are arguing against people from other tribes, those people pay no heed to what we say. It is as if we are speaking a foreign language….
The three axes allow each tribe to assert moral superiority. The progressive asserts moral superiority by denouncing oppression and accusing others of failing to do so. The conservative asserts moral superiority by denouncing barbarism and accusing others of failing to do so. The libertarian asserts moral superiority by denouncing coercion and accusing others of failing to do so….
In 2016, Donald Trump surprised many people— including me— by emerging as a powerful political force and prevailing in the presidential election. Trump’s success confounded many analytical frameworks that had worked well in the past, and the three-axes model is not particularly helpful, either.
Progressives certainly viewed Trump through the oppressor-oppressed axis, seeing his pronouncements and his supporters as tinged with racism and threats toward other victim classes. Libertarians viewed Trump through the liberty-coercion axis, seeing him as authoritarian and a danger to liberty.
Conservatives, however, were divided. One faction, represented by a number of writers at the conservative publication National Review, viewed Trump negatively along the civilization-barbarism axis. They saw Trump as scornful of important traditional institutions, including civil discourse, the U.S. Constitution, the Republican Party, and the principle of free trade.
The other conservative faction saw Trump’s opponent in the general election, Hillary Clinton, as a greater threat to civilization. Writing under the pseudonym, Publius Decius Mus, an essayist on the Claremont Institute website described voting against Clinton as analogous to the passengers on one of the planes hijacked on 9/ 11 who managed to storm the cockpit and keep the hijackers from hitting their intended target.
In my view, Trump opened up a new axis. He accomplished that by appealing to people who differ from those with whom I am most acquainted. Some have termed this new axis populist versus elite, or outsider versus insider….
Perhaps the main dividing line is best described in terms of cosmopolitanism. The sections of the country that most strongly supported Hillary Clinton were large cities located along the coasts, where affluent people are used to engaging with foreign cultures, either locally or by traveling abroad. The sections of the country that most strongly supported Donald Trump were rural and small-town areas located away from the coast, where interaction with foreign cultures is much less frequent.
To describe the cosmopolitan outlook, recall the expression “bourgeois bohemians,” coined by journalist David Brooks almost two decades ago. Brooks was describing a cosmopolitan elite, one that enjoys foreign travel and celebrates cultural diversity. The Bobos, as Brooks dubbed them, probably feel more comfortable in Prague than in Peoria.
As I see it, Donald Trump’s supporters were the anti-Bobos. They distrusted foreign people and cultures. But above all, they distrusted and resented the Bobos, and the feeling was mutual. Thus, the axis that I believe best fits the Trump phenomenon is Bobo versus anti-Bobo.
I think this is right. Bret Stephens is a Bobo who believes that “the real threat of the Trump presidency isn’t economic or political catastrophe. It’s moral and institutional corrosion — the debasement of our discourse and the fracturing of our civic bonds.”
Stephens seems not to understand that — in the view of anti-Bobos — civic bonds were fractured long ago by the Bobos who championed school busing, affirmative action, and all that followed under the heading of identity politics, including “open borders”. The anti-Bobos of the North were taken for granted as reliable Democrat voters, largely ignored (by both parties), and then sneered at by Democrats. Hillary Clinton’s characterization of the anti-Bobos (of all regions) as “deplorables” was merely confirmatory, and probably enabled Trump’s victory by putting him over the top in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Trump’s genius has been to speak the language of anti-Bobos and make them feel as if they are valued.
It is unclear to me what “deeper threat [Trump’s] his presidency represents”, as Stephens puts it. Trump, as I argue above, is not divisive. Bobo policies — shared by “establishment” politicians of both parties — have been divisive. Stephens and his ilk (of all parties) simply want the anti-Bobos to shut up, get back in the fold, and accept the crumbs that fall from the Bobos’ table. The “deeper threat”, in other words, is an end to the Bobos’ long reign of error in Washington.
Stephens’s Bobo-ism is fully on display in the final paragraph of his op-ed, where he writes that “The tragedy of Pittsburgh illustrates, among other things, that the president cannot unite us, even in our grief.” What I saw was an immediate attack on Trump for having created an “atmosphere of hate” (shades of Dallas 1963). Trump’s personal behavior — which reflects his long-standing pro-Jewish sympathies — was exemplary, as was the behavior of Rabbi Myers. How, precisely, was Trump supposed to “unite us” when there are tens of millions of Americans — goaded on by the mainstream media — who despise him for the sheer enjoyment of it?
This was a final update before election day. The Dems won a majority in the House, though a narrow one. Meanwhile, the GOP has increased its majority in the Senate. That is the better half of the loaf because control of the Senate means that Trump can continue to remake the judiciary in a conservative image. Further, the House will be perceived as the obstructionist body for the next two years, setting the stage for a GOP restoration there. Barring the unforeseeable, a largely successful Trump presidency will set the stage for Republican dominance in 2020.
How is Trump’s popularity these days? And how will his standing with voters affect the outcome of tomorrow’s elections?
Trump’s approval ratings have been fairly steady since early in the year, with a recent uptick that bodes well for GOP candidates:
Derived from Rasmussen Reports approval ratings for Trump.
Lest you believe that those numbers are weak, consider this comparison with Obama’s numbers:
In this age of polarization, it’s hard for any president to routinely attain high marks:
The good news, again, is that Trump’s strong approval rating has been significantly higher than Obama’s for the past several months.
Ratios of the ratios in figure 2 yield enthusiasm ratios: the strength of strong approval ratings relative to overall approval ratings:
Since the spike associated with the Singapore summit, Trump”s enthusiasm ratio has settled into a range that is comfortably higher than Obama’s.
There is a different poll that is more revealing of Trump’s popularity. Every week since the first inauguration of Obama, Rasmussen Reports has asked 2,500 likely voters whether they see the country as going in the “right direction” or being on the “wrong track”. The following graph shows the ratios of “right direction”/”wrong track” for Trump and Obama:
Source: Rasmussen Reports, “Right Direction or Wrong Track“.
The ratio for Trump, after a quick honeymoon start, fell into the same range as Obama’s. But it jumped with the passage of the tax cut in December 2017, and has remained high since then, despite the faux scandals concocted by the leftist media and their concerted attack on Trump.
Figure 5 suggests that the squishy center of the electorate is lining up behind Trump, despite the incessant flow of negative “reporting” about him and his policies. (See “related reading” at the end of this post.) His base is with him all the way.
Trump’s coattails may be be decisive in November. Based on an analysis of the relationships between Obama’s popularity (or unpopularity) and the outcome of House elections, it looks like the GOP will hold the House while losing about 10 seats. (This is a very rough estimate with a wide margin of error.)
Rasmussen’s generic congressional ballot affords a similar view. The polling data, which are behind a paywall, span April 2007 to May 2015 (when the poll was discontinued), and January 2018 (when the poll was resumed) to the present.
Taking a closer look:
Rasmussen advertises a 2-percentage-point margin of error, which is borne out by the results for the elections of 2008-2014. In fact, the generic congressional ballot was spot-on in 2010 and 2012, while the GOP under-performed slightly in 2008 (the year of the financial crisis) and over-performed slightly in 2014 (a mid-term referendum on Obama).
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that this year’s polls are spot-on. The latest poll (figure 7) gives the GOP 51 percent of the two-party vote. How does that translate into House seats? Recent history is probably the best guide:
A 51-percent share of the vote would give the GOP about 52 percent of House seats; that is, the GOP would hold the House. In fact, two years ago the GOP won more than 55 percent of House seats with 50.5 percent of the two-party vote.
There’s more evidence against the loss of the House:
1. I correlated measures of Obama’s popularity (or lack thereof) with with the outcomes of House mid-terms during his presidency. I then applied those correlations to measures of Trump’s popularity (or lack thereof), which is markedly higher than Obama’s at this stage of their respective presidencies (according to Rasmussen, at least).
2. I correlated the outcomes of post-WWII mid-terms during GOP presidencies with the GOP presidents’ shares of the 2-party vote in the preceding elections. I then applied that result to Trump’s share of the 2-party vote in 2016.
Both methods yield the same result for 2018: a loss of 4 House seats by the GOP (yes, four seats, not 4 percent of seats). The estimates are surrounded by a wide margin of error. Given that, the results support the view that the GOP will hold the House.
In the end, the outcome will depend on turnout. Are Democrats more charged up than Republicans? I don’t think so.
Alex Castellanos, “How Trump Has Managed to Defy Gravity“, RealClearPolitics, July 31, 2018
Selwyn Duke, “Media Collusion: 100-Plus Papers Agree to Simultaneously Run Anti-Trump Editorials“, The New American, August 14, 2018
Dennis Prager, “The Greatest Hysteria in American History“, RealClearPolitics, July 24, 2018
Ned Ryun, “None Dared Call It Treason … When It Was a Democrat“, American Greatness, July 24, 2018
In what direction will leftists move after next month’s elections?
1. Will they be chastened by defeat and tone down their verbal and physical violence?
2. Will they be frustrated by defeat and keep it up?
3. Will they tone it down if broadly victorious?
4. Will they keep it up if broadly victorious, in the belief that more of the same will yield more of the same.
5. Or will they just keep it up because leftism and violence are intertwined?
The left isn’t monolithic, of course. The loony-left fringe — which is much more than a fringe — will choose #5.
Most left-wing politicians, on the other hand, will probably tone it down — win, lose, or draw. That is, they will choose #1 or #3.
I expect that it will come down to #1. This is from a recent article (behind a paywall) at Rasmussen Reports:
Republicans are madder about the Kavanaugh controversy than Democrats are and more determined to vote in the upcoming elections because of it.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 54% of all Likely U.S. Voters say they are more likely to vote in the upcoming midterm elections because of the controversy surrounding President Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee. Only nine percent (9%) say they are less likely to vote. Thirty-four percent (34%) say the controversy will have no impact on their vote.
Sixty-two percent (62%) of Republicans are more likely to vote because of the Kavanaugh controversy, compared to 54% of Democrats and 46% of voters not affiliated with either major political party.
Sixty-two percent (62%) of all voters are angry about the U.S. Senate’s treatment of Kavanaugh, with 42% who are Very Angry. Fifty-six percent (56%) are angry about how the Senate treated Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, including 35% who are Very Angry.
Sixty-four percent (64%) of Republicans are Very Angry about the Senate’s treatment of Kavanaugh, a view shared by 30% of Democrats and 34% of unaffiliated voters. By comparison, fewer Democrats (48%) are Very Angry about the Senate’s treatment of Ford; 28% of GOP voters and 30% of unaffiliateds agree.
Democrats’ five-point lead on the weekly Rasmussen Reports Generic Congressional Ballot has vanished. The two parties are now tied with less than a month until Election Day. We’ll be watching to see if this is the beginning of a post-Kavanaugh trend.
“Trump Defies Gravity” — Note especially the “Right Direction”/”Wrong Track” ratio in figure 5 (and in the sidebar). It’s near its post-honeymoon peak for Trump. And it’s about twice as large as the ratio of eight years earlier, when BHO was
running ruining the country.
“The House Hangs in the Balance” — Signs that the House will remain in GOP hands.
Mid-term elections are always about the incumbent president — at the margin. That is, some voters (probably “swing” voters in the general elections), cast their House and Senate ballots in protest against the presidential candidate for whom they had voted in the preceding general election. (It’s like having a tantrum when the tooth fairy doesn’t leave as much as one had expected.)
The post-World War II record for the House, where all seats are on the line in every election, tells the story. The GOP usually fares worse in mid-terms when there’s a Republican in the White House than it does when there’s a Democrat in residence.
In the first graph below, you can see that Republicans have won more than 50 percent of House seats in only 6 post-WWII mid-terms, and 5 of those wins occurred during a Democrat presidency. The mirror image view is similarly lop-sided: Democrats have won more the 50 percent of House seats in 12 post-WWII elections, and 8 of those wins occurred during a Republican presidency.
In the second graph below, you can see that Republicans gained House seats in 9 mid-term elections, and 8 of those elections were held when a Democrat presided. The mirror image: Democrats gained House seats in 9 mid-terms, 8 of which occurred during a Republican presidency.
So if the GOP loses the House in 2018, it will be in line with history and not necessarily because of Trump — though the pundits will play it that way.
I have invoked the electorate’s “squishy center” in several posts; for example:
If a left-wing Democrat (is there any other kind now?) returns to the White House and an aggressive left-wing majority controls Congress — both quite thinkable, given the fickleness of the electorate — freedom of speech, freedom of association, and property rights will become not-so-distant memories. “Affirmative action” will be enforced on an unprecedented scale of ferocity. The nation will become vulnerable to foreign enemies while billions of dollars are wasted on the hoax of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming and “social services” for the indolent. The economy, already buckling under the weight of statism, will teeter on the brink of collapse as the regulatory regime goes into high gear and entrepreneurship is all but extinguished by taxation and regulation.
All of that will be secured by courts dominated by left-wing judges — from here to eternity.
And most of the affluent white
enablersdupes of the revolution will come to rue their actions. But they won’t be free to say so.
Thus will liberty — and prosperity — die in America. Unless … the vast, squishy center of the electorate takes heart from Trump’s efforts to restore prosperity (and a semblance of constitutional governance) and votes against a left-wing resurgence. The next big test of the squishy center’s mood will occur on November 6, 2018.
How big is the squishy center? I estimated here, based on popularity ratings for Obama and Trump, that about one-third of the electorate is hard left and about one-third is staunchly conservative; thus:
I concluded on this note:
Left and right — the hard left and staunch conservatism, in particular — are irreconcilable. They are in fact locked in a death-struggle over the future of America. The squishy center is along for the ride, and will change its tune … and allegiance opportunistically, in the hope that it will end up on the “right side of history”.
As for the size of the squishy center: It may comprise about one-fifth of the electorate, rather than one-third, judging by electoral oscillations since the advent of the modern Republican Party around 1920. Hyper-active Teddy Roosevelt captured the party upon his ascendancy to the bully pulpit in 1901. Though TR’s presidency ended in 1909, the GOP remained in his thrall through 1916. TR’s “Bull Moose” (Progressive) candidacy in 1912 swung the election to Woodrow Wilson — the father of the administrative state. Charles Evans Hughes, the GOP nominee in 1916, was a TR man.
The GOP returned to “normalcy” in 1920, with the election of Warren G. Harding and his running mate-cum-successor, Calvin Coolidge. By “normalcy” I mean that Harding and subsequent GOP nominees have paid lip service, and sometimes actual service, to the project of limited, constitutional government. In any event, GOP presidential candidates, whatever their platforms and programs, have been consistently to the right of their Democrat opponents.
Given that, the division of the popular vote between the two major parties gives a first-order approximation of the ideological divide:
(I attribute the dampening of the fluctuations since 1984 to the generally uninspiring character of the post-Reagan candidates. Clinton’s weak surge in 1992 and 1996 reflects his GOP opponents — Bush I and Dole. Obama’s weaker surge in 2008 reflects McCain’s bumbling performance, and a temporary burst of enthusiasm among blacks and misguided whites who wanted to send a “message” to George W. Bush.)
A similar but more precise estimate of the ideological divide can be obtained by counting the votes cast for third parties. Drawing on Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, I assigned votes to two camps, which I call Federalist and Nationalist. Federalist for the idea of a confederation where States are co-sovereign with a limited, central government; Nationalist for the idea of a strong central government of almost unchecked power, ruling over subservient States.
On the Federalist side are the GOP; the Southern Democrats of 1948 and 1968; and the Libertarians of 2016. (I count the Southern Democrats as favoring the Federalist side because of their stance on States’ rights, however ignoble the cause it served. But their inclusion does not taint the GOP, as I explain here.)
On the Nationalist side are the Democrat Party; the Socialists of 1920 and 1932; the Progressives of 1924 and 1948; the Independent/Reform parties of 1980, 1992, and 1996; and the Greens of 2000.
There are other third parties, of less consequence, that could be labeled Federalist or Nationalist — the Libertarians before 2016 and the Greens of 2016, for example. But assigning them wouldn’t make a significant difference in the picture of the ideological split, which looks like this:
The Federalist surge in the 1920s is less impressive than the GOP surge of that decade, while the Nationalist surge in the 1990s is more impressive than the Democrat surge of that decade. But the bottom line remains the same: The electorate swings between 40-60 percent in the GOP/Federalist camp and 40-60 percent in the Democrat/Nationalist camp.
That is to say, there’s a hard core Republican/Federalist vote of 40 percent and a hard-core Democrat/Nationalist vote of 40 percent. The other 20 percent can’t make up its collective mind. But it’s the decisive 20 percent.
There is a long-standing charge that the Republican Party’s electoral success in the South is due to racism. When the charge was levied 11 years ago by Paul Krugman, I addressed it here. Though my response was correct in the main, I would change some of it.
Dinesh D’Souza has given me the perfect opening. His recent article at American Greatness, “The Switch That Never Happened: How the South Really Went GOP” (July 29, 2018), addresses several recent variants on the thesis propounded by Krugman (and many others). D’Souza’s article is a very long adaptation of his new book, Death of a Nation. What follows is just a sample of D’Souza’s key points (the bracketed headings are mine):
[The Donkey in the Room: The Democrat Party as the Party of Theft]
Let’s begin with a critical question: Did the two parties switch platforms? In other words, is the GOP still the party of Lincoln or, as progressives insist, would Lincoln today be a Democrat?…
It should be obvious from [Lincoln’s own statements] that Lincoln’s basic ideology that people have a right to the fruits of their labor, and that government, if it gets involved at all, should merely provide idlers and indigents with the means to become self-supporting, is even today the basic ideology of Republicans. And it is equally clear that the confiscatory principle “You work, I eat” is even today the basic ideology of Democrats. The entire welfare state, from the New Deal through the Great Society to contemporary Democratic schemes, are all rooted in the same plantation philosophy of legally-sanctioned theft that Lincoln identified more than a century and a half ago.
[A] majority of blacks became Democrats in the 1930s. This was at a time when the Democratic Party was manifestly the party of segregation and the Ku Klux Klan. FDR, who got less than one-third of the black vote in 1932, got 75 percent of the black vote in 1936.
Why would blacks leave the party of emancipation and resistance to segregation and lynching and join the party of bigotry and white supremacy? The depressing answer is that blacks did it in exchange for the crumbs that they got from FDR’s New Deal. We have seen earlier how FDR designed the New Deal to exclude African-Americans and preserve Jim Crow. How delighted and amused FDR must have been to see blacks coming over to his camp even as his administration worked closely with racist Democrats to screw them over…..
So FDR bought off the African American vote at a bargain-basement price in the 1930s. Yet this secured the Democrats a decisive, but not unanimous, black vote. Democrats had around 75 percent, and they remained in that range from the 1930s through the 1960s. Then LBJ consciously directed a large portion of his Great Society benefits to blacks, and bought off another big chunk of the black vote for the Democratic Party.
Since LBJ, blacks have voted for Democrats in the 90 percent range. This second generation of blacks in overwhelming numbers gave their electoral consent to becoming part of LBJ’s Democratic plantation….
[T]he timing and motivation of the black switch is a decisive refutation of the progressive lie that blacks wisely left the Republican Party because they recognized it as the party of white supremacy, and joined the Democratic Party because they knew it had become the party of civil rights. That wasn’t the perception; neither was it the reality.
[What about Goldwater and Nixon?]
Nixon lost [Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia in 1968]. Goldwater won [four of those] states [plus South Carolina] in 1964, the only states he carried other than his native Arizona. Not that Goldwater was a racist—he was a founding member of the Arizona NAACP and had pushed to integrate the Arizona National Guard and the Phoenix public schools. He had supported the Civil Rights Act of 1957 which established a Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department, as well as another civil rights bill in 1960.
Goldwater objected to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on libertarian grounds; he did not believe the federal government was constitutionally authorized to regulate discrimination in the private sector. Sadly, Goldwater’s principled stand was misunderstood by many African-Americans, who saw Goldwater as a racist and his party, the GOP, as the party of racism.
These sensitivities on the part of blacks were, of course, understandable. Unfortunately for the GOP they cost the party dearly. Previously, Martin Luther King, Jr., had maintained his independence from both parties; now he joined the Democratic camp. And Goldwater paid not only with a disastrous election loss but also with the loss of his reputation: the characterization of Goldwater as a racist, although false, has endured as a staple among today’s progressives….
[Kevin] Phillips argued [in The Emerging Republican Majority] that Nixon understood that he could never win a majority by appealing to the Deep South. He had just seen Goldwater win the Deep South and lose the rest of the country in considerable part because of his position on the Civil Rights Act….
What Nixon did, according to Phillips, is appeal to the Sun Belt, “a new conservative entity stretching from Florida across Texas to California.” The Sun Belt reflected a modernizing economy grounded in defense, manufacturing, technology, and services and was—and still is—the fastest growing part of the country. Phillips argued that whoever wins the Sun Belt wins the presidency….
In the South itself, Nixon targeted the urban population of the Outer or Peripheral South. Nixon was not after the Deep South states of Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina or Alabama; he barely campaigned in those states. Rather, he was after the Peripheral South states of Florida, Texas, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia…. And within these states, Nixon’s campaign focused on cities: Tampa, Atlanta, Dallas, Little Rock, Norfolk, Raleigh, Nashville.
… Nixon appealed to these Peripheral South voters not on the basis of race but rather on the basis of Republican policies of entrepreneurial capitalism and economic success. In other words, he went after the Peripheral South’s nonracist, upwardly mobile voters, leaving the Deep South racists to the Democratic Party. And sure enough, in 1968 Nixon won Virginia, Tennessee, and Florida in the Peripheral South and the entire Deep South went to the racist Dixiecrat George Wallace.
How the South Became Republican
… This question is taken up in political scientists Byron Shafer and Richard Johnston’s important study, The End of Southern Exceptionalism….
… Shafer and Johnston show, first, that the South began its political shift in the Eisenhower era. Eisenhower, who won five Peripheral South states in 1956, was the first Republican to break the lock that the FDR Democrats had established in the South. Obviously, this early shift preceded the civil rights movement and cannot be attributed to it….
[T]he increasingly industrial “new South” was very receptive to the free market philosophy of the Republican Party. Thus Shafer and Johnston introduce class as a rival explanation to race for why the South became Republican. In the 1960s, however, they cannot ignore the race factor. Shafer and Johnson’s ingenuity is to find a way to test the two explanations—race and class—against each other, in order to figure out which one is more important.
Shafer and Johnston do this by dividing the South into two camps, the first made up of the wealthier, more industrial, more racially integrated South—this is the New South—and the second made up of the rural, agricultural, racially homogeneous South; this is the Old South that provided the historical base of the Democratic Party. Shafer and Johnson sensibly posit that if white Southerners are becoming Republican because of hostility to blacks, one would expect the Old South to move over first.
But, in fact, Shafer and Johnson find, through a detailed examination of the demographic data, this is not the case. The wealthier, more industrial, more integrated New South moves first into the Republican Party. This happens in the 1950s and 1960s. By contrast, the rural, agricultural, racially homogeneous Old South resists this movement.
[The Fault Is on the Left]
Eventually, the Old South also transitions into the GOP camp. But this is not until the late 1970s and through the 1980s, in response to the Reaganite appeal to free-market capitalism, patriotism, pro-life, school prayer, family values. These economic and social issues were far more central to Reagan’s message than race, and they struck a chord beyond—no less than within—the South. In 1980, Reagan lost just six states; in 1984 he lost only Walter Mondale’s home state of Minnesota. Obviously, Reagan didn’t need a specific Southern Strategy; he had an American strategy that proved wildly successful.
Reagan’s success, however, was made possible by the sharp leftward move by the Democratic Party starting with the nomination of George McGovern in 1972 and continuing through the 1970s. This swing to the left, especially on social and cultural issues like school prayer, pornography, recreational drugs and abortion, receives virtually no mention by progressive scholars because it disrupts their thesis that the trend in the South to the GOP was motivated primarily by race.
As far as congressional House and Senate seats are concerned, the South didn’t become solidly Republican until 1994. Again, this was due to the Newt Gingrich agenda that closely mirrored the Reagan agenda….
… The South has now become like the rest of the country. Southerners are Republican for the same reason that other Americans are Republican. And black Southerners vote Democratic for the same reason that blacks everywhere else vote Democratic. For whites no less than blacks, economic issues are predominant, foreign policy and social issues count too, and race has relatively little to do with it.
We can sum up by drawing two lines in the South, the line of racism and the line of Republican affiliation. When we draw these lines we see that they run in opposite directions. Survey data show that racism declines dramatically throughout the second half of the 20th century, and precisely during this period the South moves steadily into the GOP camp. Thus as the South becomes less racist, it becomes more Republican. The progressive narrative is in ruins.
Much of D’Souza’s narrative is captured in a simple graph, which I must explain before introducing and discussing it:
- Drawing on Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, I recorded the percentages of the presidential popular vote cast for Republican candidates, by State, for every presidential election since the Civil War.
- I sorted the States into two groups: (a) the 11 States of the Confederacy, and (b) all the others.
- I derived, for the two groups and each election year, the mean and median values of the GOP candidates’ percentages of the popular vote.
- I then computed, for each election year, ratios of the means and medians for the Confederate States to the the means and medians for the other States.
Here is the result:
The proximity of the means and medians attests to their validity as measures of the Confederacy’s political alignment with the rest of the nation. Values below 100 percent mean that the States of the Confederacy were less prone than other States to vote for GOP candidates. Values above 100 percent mean that the States of the Confederacy were more prone than other States to vote for GOP candidates. There was something like parity in only five elections: 1868, 1872, 1960, 1980, and 1984.
As Reconstruction ended in the South, Democrats gradually reasserted political control and began to suppress the black vote, which had been heavily Republican. The suppression of the black vote was, by the early 1900s, as complete as it would be. As a result of racist Democrat policies, the South had become overwhelmingly Democrat, and would remain so through the 1940s. (The only exception came in 1928, when the Democrat candidate was Al Smith, a Roman Catholic.)
D’Souza’s explanation for what happened after that is compelling and needs no elaboration. The South has become the North in reverse, growing strongly Republican (as the North has become strongly Democrat) for reasons of political ideology, not of race.
The real complaint of Krugman and other “progressives” is that Republicans have been winning elections far too often to suit them. They have a case of Republican Derangement Syndrome which is so severe that they can only attribute the GOP’s success to racism. That is because they are unwilling to attribute it to the inferiority of the “progressive” agenda.
The charge of racism is misdirected by 180 degrees. Racist “progressives” — theirs is the bigotry of low expectations — are conjoining psychological projection and an outdated stereotype of Southerners to paint Southern Republicans as knuckle-dragging racists.
Related reading: Dinesh D’Souza, “LBJ’s Democratic Plantation“, American Greatness, September 2, 2018
Related page and posts:
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
The Culture War
Ruminations on the Left in America
The Euphemism Conquers All
Non-Judgmentalism as Leftist Condescension
An Addendum to (Asymmetrical) Ideological Warfare
“Tribalists”, “Haters”, and Psychological Projection
Moved to a new location.
George D. Montgomery laments “What the 2016 Election Has Done to My Family” (American Thinker, July 17, 2018):
… Trump Derangement Syndrome and the resulting “Resistance” are bad enough, with hundreds of administration posts unfilled and Democrats in Congress, the Department of Justice, and other agencies providing true obstruction of the president’s agenda.
What’s worse is that my own family has been torn apart. I’m sure this has played out in many other families across the country.
The first indication of how bad it could get was when my sister declined to attend the Thanksgiving dinner I had prepared following the election in November 2016….
Alas, she held me personally responsible for getting Trump elected….
We have since managed to keep a cordial and mostly respectful relationship….
The situation with my other sister is worse. Here you have an intelligent, educated (master’s degree), and otherwise rational individual who has been completely unhinged by Trump’s election. She too blames me personally and has sent me harassing and disparaging emails and texts in spite of my repeated requests that she stop.
Apparently, she is unable to logically accept the reality that Trump will be president for another two years (at least). And like many progressives, she feels compelled to share the misery she must be experiencing in her own life, so she is directing her outrage at me, impugning my character, intellect, and morals.
The final straw came when her latest text “congratulated” me since “we now kidnap children and put them in cages,” among other accusations. I had already stopped responding to her provocations; now I have blocked any future calls, texts, and emails.
Sounds like a personal problem to me. The election didn’t cause his sisters to lose their minds. Persistent rage signifies an underlying psychological disorder.
Not everyone is lucky enough to be born with a sunny, conservative disposition.
Jeffrey Lord, “Unmasked: America’s Real Fascists“, The American Spectator, June 26, 2018
Gabrielle Okun, “Study: Conservatives Are Happier Than Liberals“, The Daily Signal, July 13, 2018
Ed Rogers, writing in The Washington Post on May 10, offers some back-handed praise of Donald Trump and his presidency:
For the Trump administration, the absence of disaster usually has to suffice as good news. Well, I wouldn’t say President Trump is on a roll, but he has had several good days.
Specifically, the outcome of Tuesday’s Senate primaries made it more likely that the GOP will retain control of the Senate, the clean break with the Iran deal can be considered a bold display of resolve, and two judges have fanned back special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — perhaps curbing his overreach. Progress toward an agreement with North Korea seems to be proceeding quickly. In fact, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo secured the release of three Americans on Wednesday who had been held prisoner, and President Trump announced he will meet with Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12. Regarding North Korea, Jeff Greenfield wrote in a Politico piece titled “Thinking the Unthinkable: What if Trump Succeeds?” last week that recognizing all of Trump’s flaws provides “all the more reason to retain a sense of perspective; to be able to consider seriously the proposition that this misbegotten president has somehow achieved an honest-to-God diplomatic success.”
Then there are the recent polls from Reuters-Ipsos, Gallup, CBS and CNN which show that the president’s job approval is ticking up. The unemployment rate is at an 18-year low; according to the National Federation of Independent Business, not only are record levels of small businesses reporting profit growth, but also the Small Business Optimism Index continues to sustain record-high levels. Americans have confidence in Trump’s handling of the economy. And at least for the time being, even the generic ballot is moving in Trump’s favor.
In addition, a few of the president’s critics are stumbling. The mainstream media did themselves real harm with the debacle of this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, and Trump tormentor New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was forced to resign following allegations of repeated abuse of multiple women….
… Yet the Trump presidency could be an exploding cigar. Just as you begin to settle in and get used to it, the whole thing could blow apart.
To state the obvious, Trump is his own worst enemy — and he won’t change. Feckless Democrats won’t bring him down, Republicans have acquiesced, much of the media has become annoying background noise, and Mueller doesn’t seem to have a silver bullet. Only Trump can destroy Trump.
A correspondent of mine had some incisive things to say about the state of affairs:
I think Trump is not only consequential, but also significant. To me, in this context, consequential means changing important things from the way they had been. Significant, means historically noteworthy. I think he will be the most significant president since Ronald Reagan. Interestingly, both Trump and Reagan followed presidents that were not significant presidents, leaving little legacy to mark their terms in office. If Trump were to be impeached and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, remote possibilities, he would be significant 100 years from now. He is, and will be, significant for grabbing a political party and making it his party, even though he is not a politician. TR, also a Nobel winner, did the same.
Trump may also be significant for being unsavory and getting away with it.
My reaction follows:
Reagan accomplished three consequential things, in my view. First, he made old-fashioned conservatism somewhat respectable, though he was and still is reviled on the left for having done so. Second, his determined effort to rebuild the armed forces — to call the bluff of the USSR — was probably the main cause of the Soviet surrender in the Cold War. Third, his political support of Volcker’s tight-money policies, coupled with the tax-rate cuts he pushed through Congress led to the taming of inflation and a resumption of strong economic growth after years of “malaise”.
Thus far, only 16 months into his presidency, Trump has done three consequential things. First, he has nominated a conservative justice to the Supreme Court (though this didn’t change the balance on the Court) and a slew of district and appellate court judges, who seem to be solid conservatives. (There haven’t been any howls of outrage from the conservative sector of the internet.) Second, he has changed the image of American defense and foreign policy from defeatism (clearly the upshot of Obama’s “leading from behind”) to something like Reaganesque doggedness. (In tandem with that, he has backed the enlargement of the defense budget, though not yet, I believe, on a Reagenseque scale.) Third, he has deliberately (and somewhat effectively, as far as I know) pushed for a rollback of regulations that he views as especially harmful to the economy. His stance on immigration is loud and controversial, but it remains to be seen whether it will be consequential.
Maybe I’ve missed some important things, but my bottom line is agreement with my correspondent. It is entirely possible that by the end of Trump’s (first?) term the U.S. legal system will have shifted sharply toward a literal reading of the Constitution; the U.S. will not be in danger of military or political eclipse by Russia and/or China; membership in the nuclear club will not have expanded; trouble-makers like Iran and North Korea will have been “tamed”; and the rate of economic growth will be at its highest since the end of World War II, with a concomitant reduction in the real unemployment rate (much of which is still hidden in a low labor-force participation rate) and a somewhat higher (but not economically debilitating) rate of inflation.
If all or most of that happens — a big if — it will cement the political realignment in the country that was sparked by Trump’s candidacy. The Democrat party will increasingly be the home of affluent, well-educated whites (mangers, aspiring managers, academics, techies). Blacks will still be there for the Dems, though not in their former numbers, now that they are beginning to learn three things: Trump will not send them to concentration camps; white Democrats take them for granted while talking down to them; and blacks have done worse, not better, since Democrats began to throw money and special privileges at them. Hispanics will still be there for the Dems, perhaps in higher numbers than before because of Trump’s perceived “racism”. But the “blue collar” classes and regions will turn increasingly Red. Thus the Midwest, despite Blue enclaves in the big cities, will shift back toward the GOP. The South will remain Red, with the exception of Virginia and perhaps North Carolina, which are becoming extensions of the Northeast (though it will be less reliably Democrat because of the blue-collar shift). The Left Coast will remain reliably on the left, but the push to split California and liberate its conservatives will grow. If it succeeds, the GOP will become even stronger in Congress and in the electoral college. Regardless of what happens in California, the new GOP will be stronger politically than it has been at any time since World War II.
All of that could go by the wayside if there’s a real war involving the U.S., a recession, or a scandal beyond the known fact of Trump’s dalliances (i.e., an actual crime of consequence, not the payoff to Stormy). But barring such things, there will be a new GOP, and it will be stronger than the old one for some years to come.
As for Trump’s personal life, if things go nearly as well as they might, it will merit an asterisk in history books. Balanced historians (they’re hard to come by) will simply note that Trump was one of many presidents who couldn’t keep his pants zipped up, but that he succeeded in spite of it. They might even note that (among men, at least) there is a strong connection between sexual and political drive. Though the last observation will be out of bounds in the new Victorian era that is descending upon us.
George Will argues in favor of broad restoration of felons’ right to vote. How broad he doesn’t say, but his column effectively presents the case for a more expansive restoration than exists in many jurisdictions.
There are good arguments against moving in that direction, however. Roger Clegg presents them in a critique of Will’s piece. This is an issue over which reasonable people can differ, but I think Clegg has the stronger case.
Will asks, “What compelling government interest is served by felon disenfranchisement?” Clegg responds: “If you’re not willing to follow the law, then you should not have a role in making the law for everyone else, which is what you do when you vote — either directly (in the case of a referendum or ballot initiative) or indirectly (by choosing lawmakers and law enforcers).”…
If the government did not “fine-tune” the quality of the electorate this would mean, as Clegg points out, that “not only criminals but also children, non-citizens, and the mentally incompetent must be allowed to vote.” In fact, he continues, “we do have certain minimum, objective standards of responsibility and commitment to our laws that we require people to meet before they are given a role in the solemn enterprise of self-government.”
It is well understood that voters, by and large, vote irrationally, that is, emotionally, on the basis of “buzz” instead of facts, and inconsistently…. Voters are prone to vote against their own long-run interests because they do not understand the consequences of the sound-bite policies advocated by politicians (nor do politicians, for that matter). American democracy, by indiscriminately granting the franchise — as opposed to limiting it to, say, married property owners over the age of 30 who have children — empowers the run-of-the-mill politician who seeks office (for the sake of prestige, power, and perks) by pandering to the standard, irrational voter.
There should be a movement away from enfranchisement, not toward it.
BHO delivered his second state of the union (SOTU) address in the evening of January 27, 2010. On the morning of that day, BHO’s presidential approval rating at Rasmussen Reports stood at -15 (percentage of likely voters strongly approving minus percentage strongly disapproving).
DJT delivered his second SOTU address in evening of January 30, 2018. On the morning of that day, DJT’s presidential approval rating at Rasmussen Reports also stood at -15.
Here’s what happened to the ratings in the days immediately following the SOTUs:
DJT’s SOTU bounce arrived more quickly and was stronger than BHOs. Moreover, looking at the big picture — approval ratings by day of presidency, as reported by Rasmussen — DJT’s strong approval rating has been running ahead of BHO’s for more than a month:
Stay tuned for updates in the coming months and years.
Enemies of big government and high taxes are right to fear the long-run consequences of massive immigration. The record of the last five presidential elections (2000-2016) is rather clear: Democrats prosper as the vote-count rises.
The following graph shows what happened in the 50 States and D.C. between 2000 and 2016. The percentage-point change in the GOP presidential candidate’s share of the two-party popular vote is on the vertical axis; the percentage change in the number of votes case for all candidates is on the horizontal axis.
And it happens not just in States that vote Democrat; it happens in GOP-leaning States, too:
Immigration isn’t the only explanation for the relationship, of course. It’s long been observed that people in big cities tend to vote for more government, whereas people in rural areas tend to vote against it. Population growth means bigger and bigger cities, and therefore a greater tendency to turn to the party of big government.
Who knows whether the relationship between population and voting is due to the “need” for more government as people are crowded together, contagion by the acolytes of big government (e.g., schoolteachers and “civic leaders”), or a mix of the two? Whatever the case, it can’t be denied that more voters means a bigger share of votes for the party of big government.
Conservatives are right to resist massive immigration, and the bestowal of voting privileges that surely follows it.
Are Democrat spinmeisters or the mainstream media (pardon the redundancy) correct in believing that Roy Moore’s loss in Alabama means that 2018 will see a “Blue Wave”, in which Democrats retake one or both houses of Congress? Wasn’t Moore’s loss a continuation of the Dems’ “stunning” sweep of statewide offices in Virginia? Doesn’t all of that portend a repudiation of Trump in 2020?
The answers are “no”, “no”, and “no”. Moore’s loss was a one-off event that had everything to do with Roy Moore and nothing to do with the political leanings of Alabamans. It is ludicrous to believe that Alabama has suddenly become a Purple State when Trump’s 64-percent share of the two-party vote surpassed the share received by any GOP candidate since Richard Nixon in 1972.
It is similarly ludicrous to believe anything about the elections in Virginia other than their consistency with that State’s burgeoning blueness. Bush II, for example, took 54 percent of Virginia’s two-party vote in 2000 and 2004, but McCain, Romney, and Trump won only 47-48 percent in 2008-2016. The Old Dominion is increasingly dominated by the rapidly growing cities and counties of Northern Virginia that are political appendages to Washington DC. (The same is true of Maryland and its rapidly growing appendages to DC.)
The 2018 elections will hinge manly on how voters feel about what the GOP-controlled Congress has done for them. And by election day 2018, most of them will be feeling a lot better because the government is taking a lot less from their paychecks. Continued revival of the economy will also help to buoy voters’ spirits. Unless something very bad happens between now and election day, a pro-incumbent mood will sweep most of the land. There will be exceptions, of course, as this or that Representative or Senator is exposed as a philanderer, swindler, or something else unseemly. But those exceptions tend to affect Democrats just as much as Republicans.
What is actually happening, in the grand scheme of things?
A naive forecast of the 2016 presidential election, based on State-by-State trends between 2008 and 2012, produces 245 electoral votes for Trump. The naive forecast doesn’t predict a Trump win in any State that he lost. Moreover, it under-predicts the extent of the pro-GOP movement in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania — States that Trump won, and the electoral votes of which put Trump over the top.
A naive forecast of the 2020 outcome, based on State-by-State trends from 2008 through 2016, produces 329 electoral votes for the GOP candidate. Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania will be joined by Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, and New Hampshire as Red States.
As an old saying (of mine) goes, trends are made to be broken. But the betting here is that the 2018 and 2020 elections are the Republicans’ to lose.
Speaking of trends, here are some relevant graphs:
The first graph covers 10 States that were Red in 2000 and have led the way in becoming Redder since then. Note that all 10 have rebounded from the Obama effect in 2008, which was the occasion of temporary insanity among many voters who usually pull the lever for GOP candidates.
The second graph covers the 10 States that have led the way in turning Blue or Bluer since 2000. You will note that even among some of these States Obama-mania shows signs of wearing off. Only California and DC seem determined to plunge deeper into political madness.
California, by the way, more than accounts for Clinton’s popular-vote “victory” over Trump. (Clinton won California by 4.3 million votes, as against her meaningless nationwide margin of 2.9 million votes.) This is further proof, if proof were needed, of the Framers’ wisdom in creating the Electoral College. It is also a big point in favor of my fearless forecast for 2020.
GRAPH UPDATED FOR POLLING THROUGH 01/04/2018
For many years, Rasmussen Reports has published a daily poll of likely voters’ views of the incumbent president. Respondents are asked if they approve or disapprove the performance of the incumbent, and whether their approval or disapproval is strong. Rasmussen derives a presidential approval rating for each polling day by subtracting the percentage of respondents who strongly disapprove from the percentage who strongly approve. The complete polling history for Obama is here; the polling history for Trump, to date, is here.
The following graph shows, by day of presidency, the approval ratings for Obama (blue line) and Trump (red line). The difference between the two — Obama’s rating minus Trump’s rating — is plotted as a black line. Obama was well ahead of Trump for about 200 days. Trump has since closed the gap, and is now
slightly more popular (or less unpopular) than Obama was at this stage (the 336th 350th day).
UPDATED WITH AN ADDENDUM, 09/08/17
I posted “Trump vs. Obama” on August 15. I said (in part) that
Trump’s recent upswing [in popularity] relative to Obama [at the same stage of his presidency] reflects not only a slight softening of opinions about Trump’s presidency, but also the rapid decline in Obama’s popularity in the summer of 2009….
Given the media’s incessant attacks on Trump, it seems unlikely that he’ll ever gain parity with Obama — whose negative ratings were based on his actual (and abysmal) performance.
Then came the riot in Charlottesville and Trump’s politically incorrect (but correct) assignment of blame to “all sides” — including the fascists of the Antifa movement. That episode is now in the distant past, inasmuch as events more than a few days old are ancient history in the media’s view.
At any rate, Trump’s upswing relative to Obama has resumed. Here’s the story:
Each line represents the ratio of favorable to unfavorable views. Values above 1 mean that the favorables outweigh the unfavorables; values below 1 mean that the unfavorables outweigh the favorables. The light-blue and light-red lines track the 7-day averages of Obama and Trump’s overall ratings with likely voters. The dark-blue and dark-red lines track the 7-day averages of Obama and Trump’s ratings with likely voters who express strong approval or disapproval.
Trump’s comparative disadvantage continues to shrink. Here are ratios of the ratios plotted in the first graph:
It now seems possible that Trump can become more popular — or less unpopular — than Obama was. Stay tuned.
Some readers may be uncomfortable with ratios and ratios of ratios, so the graph below plots Rasmussen’s presidential approval ratings for Obama and Trump, and the difference between them. Rasmussen’s presidential approval ratings are simply the arithmetic difference between the percentage of respondents who express strong approval and the percentage who express strong disapproval. Obama’s net advantage/disadvantage is just the arithmetic difference between the ratings for Obama and Trump.
The patterns are the same as those in the preceding graphs. Trump is still underwater but is nevertheless catching up to Obama, who was sinking fast eight years ago.