Friday, September 9, 2016

This Presidential Election will not be a Replay of 1964

What is hardly true is the characterization of Trump as right wing. He is a centrist Democrat at its best.  Having sewed up the so called right wing with his outrageous and absurd campaign, he now rotates on to landing the Democrats to his cause.  That consists of an unrelenting exposure of his opponent and pushing appropriate policy as in immigration while swinging Mexico on side as he has just done.

In short he can readily straddle the center with Hilary's best policy positions  while demolishing Hilary  on her actual competence and personal greed. Hilary's only winning path is to preserve the Obama vote of 2012 while all Trump has to do is look like the real thing once in a while.

It is not over yet, but it was over the day he announced his candidature.  The serious question then was how.  He clearly outclassed all his competition then.  He as clearly outclasses Hilary now.  What is remarkable is how he pulled it off and how completely he destroyed them and the whole Republican Elite.  Never have we seen such a political wrecking party.

Once again it is Hilary's turn and we merely cannot imagine how.  Yet we will all soon know.


This presidential election will not be a replay of 1964

A Democratic landslide is far from certain 

by Fabrizio Tonello / August 23, 2016 / Leave a comment

Republican candidate Donald Trump at a rally at the University of Akron in Ohio, USA, 22nd August 2016 ©Akron Beacon Journal/ABACA/PA Images

The season of the hardly-democratic American exercise called “primaries” has passed, and we can look at the November presidential match between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and try to assess the chances of the two candidates using the tools of political history. After the parties’ national conventions, most polls seemed to forecast the 2016 election as a replay of the 1964 election: an experienced, establishment-approved, serious Democratic presidential candidate running against a fringe, hard-right, hated-by-the-establishment Republican candidate. Final score: 61-38 for the good guys. (In recent days, while Trump’s poll numbers have slightly improved, Clinton still holds a significant lead.)

Unfortunately, this rosy picture has several flaws.

For one, in 1964 America was under the spell of the assassination of young, popular, Democratic President John Kennedy, that had happened less than one year before in Dallas. The USA was a country that had grown rich after the war and was able of spreading prosperity to many white blue-collars, hardly ressembling 2016 America, where white no-college workers’ salaries have been declining since the Seventies.

Lyndon B Johnson’s and Barry Goldwater’s United States was a country where New York, and union-friendly Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois were four of the five most populous states, with a combined Democratic safebox of 144 electoral votes, a quarter of the electoral college. Today, unions have all but disappeared from the private sector and two of the three most populous states are Republican fortress Texas and swinging Florida. True, electoral votes-rich California is safely in the Democratic column, but Pennsylvania is not in the “safebox” any more: even if in 2012 the margin between Obama and Romney was five per cent, it is considered with Ohio and Virginia another one among the swing states.

The biggest problem with the “1964 scenario” is polarisation: half a century ago, even 25 years ago, this country had a large number of voters willing to swing their allegiance from one party to the other according to the situation, the personality of the candidates, and the political platforms. This is hardly the case now. According to Emory University’s Alan Abramowits, “As a result of increasing partisan-ideological polarization, an electoral process characterised by candidate-centered campaigns aimed primarily at persuading swing voters has been transformed into one characterised by party-centered campaigns aimed primarily at mobilizing core party supporters.” In other words, Republicans vote for Republican candidates and Democrats vote for Democrat candidates.

We can see that in the evolution over time of split ticket voting (casting one’s ballots for a party in Congress and for the opposite party in the Presidential election). Split ticket voting peaked in 1972, when 30 per cent of voters divided their loyalties. Since then it has being decreasing: 26 per cent in 1984, 24 per cent in 1992, 19 per cent in 2000, 17 per cent in 2004 and barely ten per cent in 2012. As a consequence, in the House there were only 26 ticket-splitting districts after the 2012 election, far fewer than the 83 split districts after the 2008 election, or the more than 100 split districts that were common until the 1990s. Twenty-six constituencies means less than six per cent of the 435 House’s districts, a degree of polarisation seldom registered in American history.

Let’s look at the behavior of voters in the past elections: in 1980 a full third of Democratic voters abandoned President Carter and casted their vote for Ronald Reagan or John Anderson. In 2012, only eight per cent of Democratic voters betrayed Barack Obama. In 1992, more than a quarter of Republican voters refused to vote for George HW Bush; in 2012, only seven per cent of them abandoned the hardly charismatic leader Mitt Romney.

This increased polarisation is fed by a psychological process reinforced by partisan media and social networks: a full half of Republican voters are afraid of the Democratic party, and 55 per cent of Democratic voters are afraid of the Republican party. Strong believers in the two camps see the others as “closed minded,” “immoral,” “dishonest,” lazy.” One third of voters in each party think the other party’s supporters are simply “unintelligent.”

We now live in what Eli Pariser called The Filter Bubble: the internet potentially offers billions of websites, but powerful psychological mechanisms push us to use just a handful of information outlets, those with which we feel comfortable. In other words, we don’t look for news but for confirmation of what we altready know, or think we know. If one lives in Oklahoma, most probably one listens to Rush Limbaugh radio tirades, and if one lives in Washington DC, there are good chances that National Public Radio will be on all day long. Republican households watch facts-lite Fox News, where all kind of far-fetched ideas are on the air 24 hours a day.

This is why polls now underestimate candidate Trump’s strength. It is obvious that Trump will struggle to reach out to all Republican voters, and will not convince some of them, or many Independents, but chances are that fear of the Democratic party in power, hatred for Clinton, the frustration of conservative voters, nativism, and discontent among white blue-collars for their economic situation will boost the support for him in the end.

No comments: