THE UNITED STATES: TRENDS FOR THE NEXT ELECTION

texas

^ news from Dallas : a ten-point swing to Clinton, from  2012, in one urban Texas congressional District

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The 2016 Presidential election had its unique aspects — boy did it ever — but for the most part it was a classic change balloting. We have been here before : the elections of 1828, 1860, 1876, 1896, 1912, 1920, 1932, 1948, 1964, 1980, 1992, and 2008 were all “change elections.”

What do I mean by “change election” ? Here’s how I apply it :

( 1 ) our nation is constantly changing, its people, its views of events, its emphases, its coalitions. People do not live in constant politics, but they do live constantly their lives; and the circumstances of their lives keep on changing : some faster, some not so fast; and their perceptions about their lives at any given moment change, too.

( 2 ) elections take place on that continuum; they occupy a segment of the ongoing movie, as it were, of people’s lives individually, in a community, in the society generally, and in their own minds.

( 3 ) campaigns can alter those perceptions quite a bit; the better a campaign is at identifying stuff that people find really important to them, the more effect the campaign can have — without those affected realizing the full extent of said effects, or whence they came.

It is always thus, in a universal suffrage political system. Yet constant change doe snot mean that the character of the nation changes. Germany’s Otto von Bismarck, who more than 140 years ago accepted universal suffrage as a conservative measure was right : the broader the voter base, the more the ongoing character of a nation is reflected in and through the momentary stuff, the changes. So it is with the United States, where elections exhibit oppositions that long outlast the particular circumstances of their development. After all, we talk of Donald Trump — with much justice — as a Jacksonian leader heading a  Jacksonian coalition. The elections of 1828, 1832, and 1836 live on.

Nonetheless, though American elections seem to repeat themselves, the complexity of our system — 50 states with much sovereignty, overlain uneasily by the Federal Constitution  –assures that the constant stream of changes in people’s lives rearranges the various coalitions that have come and gone since those early years. The two basic coalitions are ( 1 ) cities, the educated, and people of color and ( 2 ) rural and small town life, almost exclusively white and less educated than life in the cities. each coalition has had its wins and its losses. This time, coalition # 2 won and coalition # 1 lost.

This time, Hillary Clinton gambled that coalition # 1 encompassed enough voters in enough states to win. She was right about the voter number, wrong about the states, because coalition # 2 ended up as sharply defined — much of it by her doing — as coalition # 1; and as often happens, people don’t get riled up often by a campaign, but if yours makes its opponents angry, they’ll work like hell to beat you, and so it was — narrowly, but it doesn’t usually take much more than narrow to decide an American election with no incumbent running.

So where do we go politically from here ? I think Hillary Clinton’s gamble will pay off, and soon, but not for her; for somebody new. Here’s why:

( 1 ) America is becoming more educated, not less, because the jobs require it. Even service jobs require skill in electronic devices and social media.

( 2 ) jobs requiring education are locating more and more in the cities : because that’s where the educated people choose to live and shop, work and eat, and because the new skill jobs require face to face networking all the time with all kinds of skill people. (In addition, living in cities allows people to not be bound by the expense and parking/garaging inconviences and costs of car ownership.)

( 3 ) cities remain ports of entry for moist immigrants, or immigrants’ destination, because that’s where immigrants already live, where entry level service jobs abound, and where their immigrant status doesn’t render them outcasts or suspects among the community. It’s also easier for immigrants to start businesses in cities, and they do.

( 4 ) cities are places where physical change — building booms, renovations, “gentrification,” and novelties — happens day to day and imposes its own dynamic, even its own sound, sight, and smell, to daily life. Cities are noisy, and noise is the voice of change.

( 5 ) small town and rural America are not growing economically or otherwise. When they do grow, its because they turn into newly sprung up cities : Charlotte and Greensboro in NC; Phoenix, AZ; greater Atlanta, GA; Harris County, TX; Bergen County, NJ; Fairfax County and Arlington, VA; Salt lake City, UT. many of these new cities have grown up around major land-garnt universities, immense in size themselves : Champaign, IL; Columbus, OH; Lincoln, NE; Ann Arbor, MI; Bloomingtton, IL; Athens, GA; Athens, OH; Centre County, PA; and Orlando, Gainsville, and Alachua Counties, FL.

Hillary Clinton ran up huge margins in cities, even bigger wins in college cities. This was true almost everywhere but especially in the parts of America that are growing generally, not only in their big cities. Clinton’s coalition of educated cities and people of color allowed her to put Arizona, Georgia, and even Texas in play. She lost Arizona by 3.5 %; Romney carried it by 11. She lost Texas by 9.1%; Romney carried it by 16. She lost Georgia by 5.1%; Romney won it by 12. Cities had a lot to do with it. Clinton swept Harris and Dallas Counties in Texas, dominated Greater Atlanta, overwhelmed in  Charlotte and Greensboro, won Richmond, Virginia, Denver, and Nashville, Tennessee, and surpassed Obama’s numbers in Chicago (her home town as well as his), Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Salt lake City, all the West Coast cities, Boston, Indianapolis, Madison, Miami, and Orlando.

Where her coalition fell short, it was done in by turnout. In Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina, Black voters, for example, numbered 8 to 15 percent fewer than in 2012. In Florida, Latino turnout surged — but turnout in rural countries surged more. The same  was true in Pennsylvania : Philadelphia matched Obama’s totals, and in Pittsburgh, Clinton doubled Obama’s 2012 win margin; but turnout in the state’s many rural countries was bigger and more a landslide against her.

Clinton also appears to have violated some of ground game’s basic rules. It appears, from what I have been told by sources who know, that her campaign never reached out to Democratic organizations in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio. Her campaign discounted what her opponent was doing in Wisconsin and Michigan, and once she did realize it, it was too late.

That said, her coalition’s numbers are growing, and her opponent’s are not. If Democratic prospects in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, and Maine (!) look not so hot, those in Texas, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, and even Utah look very hot indeed. And Nevada, Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico seem to have decisively moved from swing states to reliably new-Democratic.

And even though it is easy to see Donald Trump and his coalition as neo-Jacksonian, remember : when Andrew Jackson became his backwoods and rural people coalition’s champion, it was just forming and growing, booming; today it is shriveling. Trump cannot be Jackson even if he wants to be. He will either have to be something else, or he will be one term. Meanwhile, though the future-America coalition given shape by Clinton  is growing, it lacks an obvious candidate to bestow voice upon it, set for it a beat, and offer a persuasive mission. And even if such a candidate does emerge, every dirty trick in the book, plus Russian intervention, will be throw at him or her to prevent the old ways from losing their lasts and before societal oblivion freezes them cold.

We shall see if 2020 fulfills the promise of 2106 or proves that the surprise of 2016 has life left in it.

Of course there has to be a candidate. The Democrats have many good ones. Will their primary be a 17 candidate free for all, as was the Republican primary this years, and get bogarded by a charlatan ?

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphjere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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