4 / The Trump Phenomenon
Trump’s entrance in 2015 was also a watershed in that the traditional metrics and punditry that had worked so well in previous elections failed spectacularly to understand his popularity over the course of the next eighteen months. Much like Ron Paul in 2008, Trump was “the candidate from the Internet”: he was able to reach a base that was increasingly getting news from social media; he simultaneously developed a cult following among younger and more activist men and women who liked Trump precisely for his combative personality and because he bucked the Republican consensus; this was the “Alt-Right,” which was demeaned by the mainstream media variously as “white supremacist” and as “Internet trolls.”
At the time was gathered, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight infamously wrote:
- For my money, that adds up to Trump’s chances being higher than 0 but (considerably) less than 20 percent. Your mileage may vary. But you probably shouldn’t rely solely on the polls to make your case
Over the course of the nominating process, Silver and other psephologists assured the public that Trump was an electorally trivial sideshow. Plugging historical precinct figures, campaign finance data, and political endorsements into their algorithms put Trump at the bottom of the pack. Jeb Bush was to be the likely nominee, with Marco Rubio as the possible upset candidate.
Absent from these prediction formulas were rally attendance numbers, social media engagement, and organic—rather than media-manufactured—public interest. Trump dominated internet search queries throughout the campaign cycle.
A Trump supporter might, on two days notice, take off work to drive three hours for a chance to get inside a sports stadium for a Trump rally—and face a very real chance of being kept outside on account of the venue reaching maximum capacity. Jeb Bush, on the other hand, had difficulty filling up an elementary school classroom. Yet this patent disparity in intensity was thought to be electorally unimportant.
When a state politician endorsed a candidate other than Trump ahead of that state’s caucus or primary, tens of thousands of people would hear about it, and most who did would hear about it hours or days afterwards through secondhand media reports. During the interim, tens of millions of people would hear directly and instantaneously from Trump via social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It was not uncommon for people to be made aware of the endorsements for Trump’s opponents from Trump himself. The conventional blessing of the political endorsement had become the curse of the swamp.
What Silver and other pundits dismissed as electorally irrelevant clownish sideshow turned out to be the best Electoral College performance by a Republican presidential candidate in 28 years, when George Bush beat Michael Dukakis in 1988. Trump’s 304-227 Electoral College victory over Clinton was not accompanied by a victory in the popular vote, which Clinton won by 2 points. The only president in US history to have lost the popular vote but to have won by an Electoral College margin wider than Trump’s was Benjamin Harrison in 1888. Trump the putative populist won the presidency while losing the popular vote and is poised to extend his party’s advantage the upper house of Congress while seeing it lose its majority in the house conventionally understood to be the more populist of the two.
White Republicans seems to recognize that the electoral college favors their representation. , in 2012, a solid majority (54 percent) of Republicans favored doing away with the College in favor of a popular vote; in 2017, after Trump’s victory, that number dropped below 20 percent.
E. What’s The Matter With Texas?
Just over 40% of Texans are non-Hispanic white. . The Republican party has long-dominated the state on white electoral solidarity close to that of deep southern states like Alabama and Mississippi, but the writing is on the wall. The question of Texas turning blue is one of when, not if.
The conventional assumption is that this will doom the GOP’s chances at nationwide electoral viability. Had Trump lost Texas, however, he still would’ve narrowly beaten Hillary Clinton in the electoral college. The Republican party can trade Texas for the upper Midwest. On the current trajectory, the party will lose Texas. It must then retain Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and pick up Minnesota—a state Trump lost to Clinton by a margin narrower than the number of votes Republican spoiler candidate Evan McMullin received there—or cede that nationwide electoral viability.
What the GOP cannot survive is the Californication of the entire country. In 1940, California’s population non-Hispanic white. Today non-Hispanic white and of births in the state are to non-Hispanic white babies. The last time the state gave its electoral votes to a Republican was 1988.
Since 1940, the non-Hispanic white share of the population has decreased in 47 states. It has increased in just two states, Mississippi and South Carolina, and remained virtually unchanged in another, West Virginia. All three went decidedly for both Donald Trump in 2016 and Mitt Romney in 2012. The electoral consequences of the ongoing demographic transformation of the United States are obvious. If the transformation continues, the Republican party is finished as a serious contender at the national level.
The Emerging Democratic Majority
F. Perception of the Alt-Right and identitarian ideas
The events in Charlottesville, Virginia in the summer of 2017 did not destroy the alt right. They may have destroyed the utility of the phrase, but the ideas driving it and the sentiments fueling its growth continue across the western world. In Sweden, more open to the importation of foreign cultures and peoples than any other country in the world, the identitarian Sweden Democrats had their greatest electoral showing to date, garnering 18% of the vote and finishing third.