Posted by: seanmalstrom | September 20, 2018

Crystal Ball: American Midterm Election Predictions

As longtime readers know, I like to put out a prediction for the latest election. Sometimes it is right, sometimes it is wrong. Either way, it is fun, and it works those analyzing muscles.

My crystal ball is telling me that the Republican Party will retain control of both houses of Congress. While the attention now is on the House, after the election the story will be on the Senate. Republicans will win at least 5 additional Senate seats and will come very close to the 60 vote super-majority. As for the House, there may be some overall losses or additions to the Republican majority, but there will be little change. Now I will explain why I see it this way and why everyone else is not.

The concept so much is going on is ‘party that isn’t the President’s does poorly in the midterms’. After all, in 2010 the Democrat Party lost around 70 (!) seats in the House of Representatives after Obama’s election. In 1982, Democrats gained around 30 House seats after Reagan’s election. In 1994, Republicans captured House and Senate after 40 years of Democrat control after Bill Clinton’s election.

But this is a shallow view of that history. In 2002, the midterms after George W. Bush became president, the Republicans GAINED seats in the House. This is written off as 9/11 response. Fair enough. But consider that only an outsider like Trump could be put in office due to despair over the ‘Great Recession’ (i.e. issues like illegal immigration are not seen as ‘race issues’ to Trump voters but as ‘economic issues’, e.g. “Less illegal immigrants = more jobs for Americans”). The ‘Great Recession’ is bigger than 9/11, and voters will respond to it.

When you look at midterms after a Democrat president and midterms after a Republican president, a different history emerges. Democrat presidents tend to have terrible midterm performance. Republican presidents do not. Even the 30 seat Republican loss in 1982 can be attributed to lack of Reagan’s coattails as 1980 was a massive win for Reagan. 2016 was not a massive win for Trump. At best performance, Democrats may win around 11 seats in 2018, but even that will not be enough.

I think a huge reason why there is so much insanity is that the present electoral path is contradicting the analysis made in the 2006 and 2008 elections. The dominant analysis of the 2006 (when Democrats took the House and Senate) and 2008 (when Obama became president) was that of a re-alignment. A coalition of non-white voters would now be the majority. If the Republicans are demographically doomed, then why do they keep winning elections today?

The problem when you demographically define races is based on classification. Who is white? The definition of ‘white’ keeps changing. Certain races would not be considered white or ‘native’ a century ago are considered ‘white’ today such as Irish. What is even more curious is that Hispanics have been considered ‘white’ until the 1970s so they could apply for affirmative action. Some of the creators of this idea of ‘demographic destiny’ have reversed themselves. Many people forget that in 2000, the Bush analysts thought there was a re-alignment because of demographics: since Democrats embrace abortion and Republicans do not, Republicans would out-multiply Democrats. That was wrong, and so is the current ‘demographic destiny’.

There is a much better analysis of 2006 and 2008. In 2006, the districts that switched were not ‘purple’ districts but distinctly conservative ones. The Democrat Party wisely ran military veteran candidates and ran against ‘corruption’. In 2008, Obama vowed to lower taxes, better the ailing economy, and put out a message of optimism and hope. This was conservatives rejecting Republicans, not conservatives becoming Democrats. After all, the last Democrat president was Bill Clinton, and the economy was pretty good then.

In 2010, the Democrats got wiped out in the House. The belief in America has always been to vote for the other guy if things aren’t going the way you want. Conservatives focused on the primaries instead to take out all establishment Republicans and put in ‘Tea Party’ conservatives. This video really shows the intensity and feeling of being duped conservatives had back in 2010.

In 2014, Republicans took back the Senate. Since a third of the Senate is up to vote each election cycle, the Senate takes longer to shift around.

2012, though, is quite interesting. While Republicans held the House, Obama was re-elected. But Obama’s re-election vote margin, of the critical states, resembles 2016! It is also extremely unusual for a president to be re-elected with fewer votes than the first time around. I don’t think it had been done for the entire 20th century. This signals a fluke which is probably 2008. McCain and Romney are also candidates that did not unify the Republican base.

Since 2010, there was been a major change in Republican attitudes and behavior concerning government. The tipping point was the Affordable Care Act, i.e. Obamacare. When Democrats lost their 60 vote supermajority in the Senate (of a Republican winning a seat in Massachusetts of all places), the law was passed via reconcialition. Reconciliation is used only for budgets so the House and Senate budgets can be fixed. This requires a simple majority. This tipping point in attitude was that conservatives thought they were literally losing their country. The response was the Tea Party which targeted Republicans.

The main cheerleader of this Tea Party was McCain’s VP candidate, Sarah Palin. A certain person would go to see Palin: Trump.

Use your hands! New Yorkers respond to Sarah Palin, Donald Trump pizza-eating faux pas

Above: This is 2011. Why is Trump meeting with Palin? Today, the answer is obvious. Then, it was mysterious.

Today, Democrats are focused on Trump and ‘Trumpism’. Trump is actually nothing more than a crest of that Tea Party movement started in 2010. What was the Tea Party? Citizens getting involved in government because Republicans and Democrats are both two wings on the same bird of prey. What is Donald Trump? A citizen. He held no political office. Trump is to the Presidency as Bruce Wayne is to Batman. This is how his supporters see him: as someone giving up the billionaire lifestyle to clean up corruption and save the ‘city/country’. The Batman. The Trump. The surprise to conservatives is more that Trump wasn’t Hillary Clinton, it is that he publicly been playing a playboy billionaire when he was secretly a Goldwater Republican, like his dad, all along. Trump was secretly a Reagannite all along!

Even though Trump today IS Washington, the constant negativity on him has made him seem that he is not part of Washington. This causes conservatives to further rally to him.

Or let us put the analysis is a very simple way. In many elections, there is one person exuding optimism about the future, the other negativity about the opponent. I think what is going to doom many Democrat’s elections is the tone. People want a good economy. Saying Trump is ‘bad’ or ‘immoral’ isn’t going to help. Republicans learned this lesson back when Clinton was impeached yet his poll ratings went up.

I also think younger Democrats do not understand the lessons of McGovern and Mondale. Both candidates won a single state but lost 49 states to Nixon and Reagan. How does that happen!? Mondale promised to RAISE taxes. McGovern was… well… out there. Candidates who are seen as ruining the economy do not perform well in elections. Bill Clinton realized he had to ‘triangulate’. Even Obama spoke of ‘lowering taxes’. I think we are in a cycle where McGovern and Mondale will be replicated until the current young Democrat generation realizes that it does not win elections. Then, I expect a rhetorically moderate Bill Clinton copy in 2030s.

To recap for 2018: Not much change in the House, big number of additional Republican Senators.

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