May 12, 2016

Commentator confusions about re-drawing the electoral map

Now that the general election phase has begun, people are starting to wonder whether Trump can win enough blue states to put him over the top. See the appendix for a collection of electoral maps from the beginning to present.

Things look so good right now that I'm thinking 400 electoral votes is do-able, with 500 being a reach goal, and guaranteed victory no matter what. Of course others still have their heads stuck in the sand, pretending that we're still in the same old liberal vs. conservative battle which determined the current distribution of blue vs. red states. Those criteria are out -- now it's populism vs. Establishment elitism, and nationalism vs. globalism.

The clueless commentators are asking if the 2016 conservative can win over the 2016 liberal. They begin with the familiar set of swing states. And they use demographic and other trends to predict if the 2016 conservative can win over enough of the familiar swing states.

But what makes a state blue or red is going to change, since it's a wholly different set of criteria -- one which we haven't seen in our lifetimes. Perhaps the New Deal era was the last time that one party was known as the populist party, however that one (the Democrats) was also the one known for foreign interventionism, while the more elite-friendly party (Republicans) was more isolationist.

The point is, we don't have to pretend that people are still in liberal vs. conservative mode. If they were, then Trump would not have had his strongest early showing in both Massachusetts and Alabama, while suffering his biggest loss in Utah.

Everyone, even the know-nothing commentators, have repeatedly expressed their shock about how we seem to be in an upside-down world this time around. Not just about one aspect here or there -- but about so much, day-in and day-out, for nearly an entire year.

And yet when they put on their thinking caps (or ideological blinders, in the technical jargon), they assume that the world is qualitatively identical to the past several elections, and it's only a matter of whether Trump can trim away the tiniest slice necessary of the opposition in the familiar swing states.

It never dawns on them that if everything else has been upside-down so far, then which states in the fall will be genuinely neck-and-neck may be unexpected as well.

Looking at the particular candidates rather than Republican and Democrat, it's the same visceral awareness but conscious cluelessness. Everyone still has trouble believing that someone who has never been elected to any public office, and who's only been a practicing politician for less than a year has already knocked out not just one but 16 professional lifelong politicians, who served at the highest level (Governors and Senators). And -- did that in a landslide. And -- did that far earlier than planned (if anyone expected it to happen at all).

Eisenhower was a military officer who was promoted up the ranks by other government officials, and was chosen as the President of Columbia University. Trump doesn't even have that record of being promoted up the ranks in some kind of election or another, let alone in any branch of the government.

That is a never-before-seen phenomenon, which immediately tells us that we're probably in for even more surprises.

His main opponent is a former First Lady, one-term Senator, and failed Secretary of State (everyone will remember Benghazi, Syria, etc. -- no successes). She failed to secure her party's nomination the last time. And she's a woman leading one of the two major parties -- another never-before-seen scenario. She was born crooked, nobody likes her, and there's a major rift against her among the voters in her own party (the elite is consolidated -- the opposite of the Republicans, whose voters will be united but whose leadership may see a chunk of dead weight get cast off).

But somehow people are going to treat Crooked Hillary Clinton like she's JFK reincarnated in a woman's body. Secretary, you're no Jack Kennedy.

How many more historically unprecedented scenarios do we have to see which heavily favor Trump (not "Republicans"), before the commentators consciously admit that it looks daunting for Hillary to survive the coming tidal wave?

I won't link to any specific commentator taking that approach, since they're everywhere.

I do want to briefly discuss a different point being made by Andrew Gelman and a colleague, since he isn't a moron. In this post, he argues that the electoral map has become increasingly difficult to shake up because each state tends to shift less and less "over time". For the percent of a state voting Democrat (or Republican), he shows that the variation between the previous and the present election has fallen since 1956. He says that makes a "scramble" of the map less likely than it used to be.

But what we're seeing is not a return to higher and higher levels of variation, as though the electoral map were going to become more and more chaotic from one election to the next.

Rather, we could be seeing a transition from one steady state to another steady state. Maybe it'll take a few elections to get there, and maybe the transition will be a little bumpy (state A looked like it would join a certain bloc, but then it winds up in some other bloc). Still, after this brief transition, the map would look different, and it would return to a long period of lower and lower variation, as the wrinkles are ironed out.

These transitions don't happen very often, but then what have we been seeing all along? For decades and decades, the Northern states were solid Republican, and the Southern ones solid Democrats. Then during the New Deal era, most of the states touching the Great Lakes were peeled off into the Democrat column, staying there more or less ever since. And given how much of the population lives in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, that was not an insignificant change.

Unless you zoom out to see the past 150 or so years, you wouldn't see that. In 1900, you'd ask "When will Minnesota ever stop voting Republican?" In 2000, you'd ask, "When will Minnesota ever stop voting Democrat?"

A smaller change has occurred since 1980, whereby the Southern states have gone reliably Republican and look to stay that way during the Trump vs. Hillary election. For 150 years before that, those states were solid Democrat states.

Changes this drastic are rare, but that's what we mean by "historic" changes. And again, by all accounts we are in one of those historic changes. You'd have to be living under a rock not to notice. (See also: TV debate audience size, candidate rally audience size, primary turnout, media buzz, etc.) So who's to say it won't continue for another six months, and we'll begin a transition to a different-looking map?

Finally, there's one less-historic way where Trump wins big-league, including all sorts of states everyone assumed would stay blue, but that this doesn't lead the way toward a different steady state of who's red and who's blue. Maybe it will be a one-time referendum (2016 plus his re-election in 2020) on putting aside this culture war crap, and fixing the economy and government.

Then perhaps after that's done, the map will go back to the Clinton-Bush-Obama map of red vs. blue, only now with the Democrats being Democrats in the mold of the Trump phenomenon, not the descendants of Hillary. And the Republicans will be in the mold of the Trump phenomenon, not the descendants of Bush or Romney or Cruz.

Predicting what's going to happen in 2024 is of no use right now. But it goes to show that even without re-drawing the electoral map for the next several decades, the Trump phenomenon can still win a large number of blue states just this once (and again for re-election).

Regardless of what happens after Trump, it seems increasingly clear that we will at least get to President Trump, and given how weak the competition is, probably in an electoral wipe-out.

Appendix: Electoral map history

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  1. I am surprised no mainstream pundits are talking about this election being a "political realignment" of the parties, with Trump followers being the nationalistic/isolationist party, and the Dems becoming the globalist/interventionist party.

    I guess, however, that would require three things mainstream pundits are incapable of:

    (1) knowing a lot of political history ---most of them haven't even studied the '92 campaign, or even the 2000 one, let alone McKinley or FDR or Nixon's campaigns or the Jackson realignment.

    (2) admitting the globalist agenda of the corporations they work for, and admitting the agenda isn't wholly positive.

    (3) recognizing Trump isn't a buffoon but a very careful, smart, and deliberate campaigner (this would require many of them eating crow and admitting being wrong about him, which they don't do)

    And the reason I said "Trump supporters" and not "Republicans" is because it's still unclear whether the Republicans will adapt and become such a party or blow themselves up (a la the Whigs) and a new party take their place. Plenty of the Republicans big-money neocons/Eskimos are going to jump ship to the Dems in the next few years and become their "conservative" wing---which would be great from our perspective---better to have them retarding their actions than retarding ours.

  2. What do you think about Biden jumping in for the Democrats? He seems a lot more capable of trading barbs than Hillary is. Although he says if he ran he would go for Warren as his running mate, which seems like a very stupid idea.

  3. Biden still doesn't get that he was assassination insurance for Obama. For no matter who Obama pissed off, NOBODY wanted Joe Biden as president!

    Jokes aside, Biden strikes me as a guy who is aware he's just less smart than the people he works with. He's not dumb (no one whose done the work he has done (Senator, V.P.) for so long is dumb), but he's just not-as-smart as the others he works with in Washington. So he actually gets excited and tries to prove how smart he is and how personable, and it makes him seem even dumber.

    Anyway, he's (with Dem party leader backing) is probably just floating this trial balloon in case the indictment against Hillary comes through. Bernie would get slaughtered by Trump, so the Dems want to have someone else ready. Biden choosing Warren is really a sop to Bernie voters, but veiled enough so people don't see what he's doing right now. This is all just a test to see if Biden coming in now would be palatable.

    The fact that the Dems are deliberately floating this trial balloon tells me they learned something recently about the odds of an indictment. I would guess there's been a lot of activity recently near a federal courthouse, and that staffer who was given immunity has been seen going into locked rooms a lot---i.e. it seems like grand jury testimony. And some FBI and USAO guys have probably talked to Dems off the record.

  4. Biden-Warren sounds like as much of a winner as Cheney-Cruz. Biden still has nothing on Trump's policy appeal.

    Warren wouldn't placate the Bernie voters, since she's just another empty grandstander on identity politics, culture war, TONE, etc. That would be her only angle of attack on Trump. No damage.

    BTW, if she sounded a little too sanctimonious to be a straight-talking New Englander, it turns out she's from the Prairie (Oklahoma). If she were younger and shriller, she'd be Lyin' Ted Cruz's twin sister.

    1. Warren got elected in Massachusetts, one of the most liberal states in the union. This against a lackluster Scott Brown who got no support from the national GOP. She's not a good politician and she's just a seat-filler in the Senate. Screeching about Trump is the extent of her national profile.

  5. Some of the talking heads occasionally use the term "realignment," but it is rare, and the hosts and anchors must have been instructed not to use it.

    Trump doesn't use the word itself, but refers to the concept anyway -- "I'm bringing in millions and millions of new people into the Republican Party, some of whom have never voted before." "Folks, I am a conservative -- but who cares? We've got a country to straighten out!"

    You'd think more of the so-called intellectuals would be using the phrase or the concept, though. I don't see that as them being Establishment shills -- no one reads National Review or academic journals.

    It's more like magical or superstitious thinking on their part -- as part of the class that is threatened by the Trump phenomenon, they really, really, really don't want him to win. So if they don't utter the cursed word "realignment" or even refer to the concept at all, maybe it won't happen.

    But if they say the magic word, let alone discuss it over and over, they may jinx their hopes and bring the realignment into existence.

    They're so afraid of it that they don't even discuss it while performing some cleansing ritual akin to "knock on wood". The consequences are so disastrous for them that there's no protective magic that could counteract an open discussion of the realignment.

  6. "most of them haven't even studied the '92 campaign, or even the 2000 one, let alone McKinley or FDR or Nixon's campaigns or the Jackson realignment"

    It's depressing, funny, and then reassuring to hear the talking heads invoke "history" or "historically, ___ has happened". It means they won't see anything coming.

    Like this tax returns crap that NOBODY cares about. On CNN this morning, the anchorette asked a talking headette what kind of things are "usually" revealed in the tax returns of Pres candidates. She responded that, "historically, it's covered such-and-such". Historically, meaning, that one time, last election.

    Trump can put that one-time tradition to death and no one will care.

    On longer-scale changes, somewhere in the back of their minds, they know that the Republicans used to be the Northern party and the Democrats the Southern party. If they're not cuckservatives themselves, they still hear such people endlessly preening about "the Party of Lincoln".

    But they don't know that as one piece of a greater whole, like the dynamics and evolution of the electoral map (even roughly). It's an isolated factoid. For the cucks, it's meant to say "Dimocraps are the real racists!"

    For the shitlibs, it's meant to be one of those RANDOM facts that makes you snicker. "That's right, America: Republican Minnesota actually used to be a thing."

    Even more troubling for them is that the West Coast has historically been Republican. Sometimes it voted Dem when the entire rest of the country did, and so was not distinctly Democrat-voting. It's only since '88 for the Pac NW, and '92 for California, that they've voted solid Democrat.

    25 years vs. 125 years, hmmm, which is more likely an historical aberration? California being uber-Democrat is an even more recent shift than the Deep South voting Republican (20 vs. 32 years).

  7. My family in Louisiana and Tennessee were Democrats until about the 1990s. Of course they voted across party lines at times, but they also campaigned for eg JFK

  8. Sorry, OT, but remember when you did "decoding the homosexual face"? The other day some Sailer commenters were saying they think John McCain has it (context being that Trump has something on Lindsey Graham and him). I don't see it. What do you think?

  9. Jeff Sessions has an article in USA Today which puts the 2016 election in precisely Nationalist v. Globalist terms.

    Not surprising since the good Senator was aboard the Trump Train from virtually the first stop.

  10. Trump won the REPUBLICANs of the Northeast and other liberal states. Sure, if he has a great campaign, it's possible he could win places like Rhode Island. But let's not forget he got blown out of the water vs Hillary Clinton AND Bernie sanders in most of the liberal states like Rhode Island. Hell, even in Michigan, a blue Trump State if there is one, gave hundreds of thousands of more votes to Clinton AND Sanders than Trump.

  11. "The other day some Sailer commenters were saying they think John McCain has it"

    I wrote the post on that in December, after Trump tipped me off to it:

  12. "Jeff Sessions has an article in USA Today which puts the 2016 election in precisely Nationalist v. Globalist terms."

    I still think he's the VP -- working with Trump for over a year, well before he announced the run. Loyalty and history matter a lot to Trump.

    Some are talking about him being too old to take Trump's place after 8 years, but I don't see Trump choosing his VP as his potential successor. He'll be running that Apprentice audition during his stay in office. Asking around, interviewing, taking him under his wing, etc.

    That search will take a lot of time, so is better suited to his stay in office. And would be premature to conduct before he's even taken office, if he should lose the election.

    The pressing matter right now is crunch time, meaning no time to pick a successor but the best replacement here and now if something were to happen to Trump in office.

    With Sessions, he can hit the ground running, and not have to train or tutor him.

  13. "Trump won the REPUBLICANs of the Northeast and other liberal states."

    Correction: anyone who voted in the primary, whether they were R, D, or Independent.

    Still, that's a big change right there -- during the culture war era, whoever won New England would not do well in the Deep South.

    That's why everyone was so shocked that Southerners (not LARP-ing Southerners like Texans) flocked to Trump in such gigantic numbers. That was supposed to be the land of Cruz, Huckabee, etc.

    New Englanders aren't that fervently Democrat. Their party affiliation is "none" or "independent". They are liberal, so if Democrat = liberal, then they'll vote Democrat all the time. Replace what Democrat stands for, as Trump is doing (Democrat = globalist, interventionist, Establishment elitist), and they'll go back to voting Republican.

    Remember that New England only recently started voting Democrat, during the culture war phase. Massachusetts and Rhode Island were more Democrat or swing states, but Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine were reliably Republican.

  14. In fairness, it's not only Establishment types who are confused about this stuff. The depressive defeatist conservative type ("47%") is worse than unaware of these possibilities -- he hears about them all the time from aggressive and optimistic conservatives, so he feels it necessary to shout them down about why we're doomed.

    The biggest confusion that type has (which he shares with many giddy liberal types), is demographic replacement -- an increasingly non-white population is going to vote against what we consider good policies.

    Only trouble is -- most of that growing non-white population doesn't actually vote. Blacks do, but they're not newcomers and their numbers aren't changing much. The swarms of Hispanic and Asian immigrants don't translate into a very different electorate. A huge chunk are illegals, and a good share of the legal ones are passive and apathetic.

    The main effect of soaring illegal immigration is not to change the electorate, but to give a force multiplier behind what the same ol' mostly-white electorate votes for, in states with big illegal populations.

    This is because Congressional representation, and therefore electoral votes for President, are determined by size of resident population -- regardless of whether the resident is here legally or not. It's a new Three-Fifths Compromise for our neo-Gilded Age:

    Putting California back in the Republican column is not a matter of persuading hordes of illegal Guatemalans. The electorate is still vast majority white, and immigrants who've been here awhile legally.

    And compared to the size of Democrat voters in California, there's an even bigger chunk that doesn't vote in elections -- also mostly white, working-class, disaffected. Also on the liberal side, but not Establishment, and sick of their state being turned into the dumping grounds of Planet Earth.

    California has one of the lowest turnout rates, among those eligible to vote, so there's a huge untapped reservoir of Trump supporters there.

    If it's not about liberal vs. conservative, and if we turn out a large chunk of the non-voters, then Trump can put California in play. It's not lost forever just because it's flooded with illegals.

  15. Back to Sessions, he seems pretty scandal-free. Christie, also a long-time loyal ally, would nevertheless attract unwanted attention about Bridgegate, so I see him more in a Cabinet position. He also was a Governor, not a Congressmen, and Trump wants someone who knows Congress and legislation inside-out.

    Sessions is also a Deep Southerner, Christian, and "consistent conservative" -- to reassure Evangelical and related voters.

    I've seen Duncan Hunter mentioned a lot as potential VP, but given how much people are selling him, and that he's 30 years younger than Trump, he sounds more like a potential successor rather than running-mate.

    I'm thinking he's more destined for a top spot in the running for "The Apprentice: Presidential Successor", to be conducted throughout Trump's eight years in office.

  16. Reminder: hardly any VPs have been elected President, without having already served as President because the original President died in office.

    1796, John Adams
    1800, Thomas Jefferson (also 1804)
    1836, Martin Van Buren
    1968, Richard Nixon (lost first run, had to wait 8 years)
    1988, George HW Bush

    This must be common knowledge among politicians, but not among the public and commentator class. VPs are not potential successors, but more like a redundant or back-up President in case something happens to the elected one.


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