The red wall

Not long ago, certain people were telling that Democrats were guaranteed to win the presidency because of a “blue wall”, meaning a set of states representing 270 electoral votes that were guaranteed to always vote for a Democrat. One of our locals even capitalized it. In retrospect, that doesn’t seem like such a bright theory. Folks ought to have paid attention to the fact that the Republicans had won Senate and/or Governor races in states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania during the Obama administration. That might have lead them to consider whether those states were actually guaranteed to vote for Democratic candidates forever.

What may be actually happening is that the Democrats have constructed a red wall, a large number of states in which they aren’t competitive at any level. For example, take Kentucky. Kentucky has always leaned conservative. When I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, it also leaned Democratic. The Democrats, at that time, were not totally hostile to conservative ideas. Bill Clinton carried Kentucky twice, most of the congressional delegation was Democrats, and Democrats ruled the legislature. But this year, Trump beat Hillary by 30% in Kentucky, Republicans won the legislature, and 8 of 9 congresscritters from Kentucky are Republicans.

Or take Missouri. As recently as 2000 it was a swing state, which Al Gore contested heavily. This year, Trump won Missouri by almost 20%, Republican Senator Roy Blunt easily defeated a Democratic challenger, and Republicans dominate both houses of the legislature.

There is a certain amount of inertia in politics. For example , Democrats held the Kentucky State Senate until this year, mainly because Republicans weren’t trying very hard to take it away. In 2016, Mitch McConnell made it a priority to finally win it for the Republicans, recruiting many top candidates, bringing in outside money, and running high-tech, organized campaigns. Thus the Republicans finally won.

In Missouri the Democrats still hold one U.S. Senate seat. Claire McCaskill held onto that seat in 2012 after the Republican candidate, Todd Aiken, made a notorious comment about rape and pregnancy. But while Democrats still love joking about the matter to this day, what are the chances that the Republicans will shoot themselves in the foot a second time? McCaskill is running for re-election in 2018, and if the Republicans find a quality candidate, they look to have a good change of unseating her.

Similarly, Democratic incumbents are defending Senate seats in places like North Dakota and West Virginia, where Trump won by almost 40%. The odds would seem to favor Republicans solidifying their control in those states, and taking those Sentate seats. Indeed, the list of places where the Democrats are no longer competitive looks quite large: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Arizona, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana, and West Virginia. That’s 23 states. We might tentatively list Iowa as well, where Trump won by 10% and a Republican Senate candidate won in 2014 by 9%. That would be 24 states.

Assuming that the Republicans do eventually remove the last few Democratic Senators from that list, that would give them 48 Senate seats that they would hold easily. They would only need 3 more to hold the Senate, and they’ve shown they can be at least competitive, and sometimes dominating, in North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, and several other states. Thus until something major changes, the Republicans will hold the Senate. Most likely the House and the majority of state governments as well.

Contrary to what some people here seem to think, I am not a Republican and do not want the current Republican dominance of politics at all levels to continue. I would very much want to the Democrats to be competitive in more places, so that the Republicans would actually have to compete and pay attention to the political center. But as things are going now, it seems unlikely to happen, because the Democratic leadership are unable to identify their problems, much less fix them.

Parties are adaptable institutions and will, after losing enough, learn and do what it takes to win. Unfortunately for Democrats, this will undoubtedly mean playing on a field created by Republicans.

I agree with you. The Democrats have huge, structural problems. There are at least two ideas that would help them in the long term.

  1. Cut out endorsement of identity politics and focus on fringe social issues - they are divisive, polarizing and yet not that important to the vast majority of people. It is great and even admirable to support “equal rights” as long as it means just that. It isn’t effective when it sounds like they are skipping through a field of poppies trumpeting the fringe group of the week. Also, stop trying to convince white voters that they are all “privileged” even if they just got laid off from a coal mine and live in one of the worst trailer parks in America.

  2. Kick out the recent leadership including Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi among many others and start fresh. You have to get some younger people in there and that doesn’t mean former Occupy Wall Street “organizers”. You need somewhat that is charismatic like JFK (hopefully with better morals though). The Democrats are starting to look like a more rag-tag version of the Bad News Bears.

It would also help if they didn’t talk openly about taking power by bringing in so many impoverished minority groups that they have a demographic advantage in the future. That won’t happen, but, even if it did, it would be success through societal sabotage. Despite what their “elite” leaders think, people aren’t that dumb. It would be easier and much better if they lifted everyone up, had blind equality and focused on general welfare rather than class warfare.

I should add,

  1. Take gun control off the table permanently and make that clear in the Democratic Party platform. It doesn’t matter how any individual feels about it, it is only an issue that takes away votes and takes up needless time because it is almost impossible to change.

I know those cookies laid out neatly on a plate look irresistible every time but they are a trap and sometimes you just have to turn your head and walk away.

Back in 2009, the democrats controlled about 30 legislatures on the state level. Now they are down to less than 10.



How much of this is just rebellion to one party controlling the white house for 8 years? Back in 2009 people were predicting the end of the GOP. Then the GOP came roaring back.

I don’t think democrats understood how far to the right high school educated whites were moving. Back in 2008, high school educated whites only supported the GOP presidential candidate by about 14%. In 2016 that number was 39%, I believed they preferred Trump by 67-28. Will that number keep growing? Who knows. But high school educated whites are almost 35% of the entire electorate. When 35% of the electorate moves 25 points to the right, it has massive repercussions.

Millennials and non-whites are growing as a % of the electorate, but the massive movement to the right of the white working class negated a bit of it. In 2008 when McCain only won the white working class by 14%, he won 46% of the popular vote. In 2016 when the white working class preferred the GOP candidate by 39%, the GOP candidate won…46% of the vote. The growth of millennials and non-whites, as well as college educated whites, seems to have negated much of the shift from the white working class. However I guess this makes some states redder, some more blue.

So will the US continue to be bifurcated, will working class whites keep moving right? is there more room for them to move right? They are already as partisan as whites in Texas.

I love how right-wingers’ “constructive criticism” of Democratic policy basically boils down to “Abandon your primary voting blocs”. It’s not only stupid, it’s heartless and cruel, too.

It’s a funny thing about party identification. When I lived in western Kentucky in the 70s, there were conservative Democrats and moderate Democrats (granted, there were no liberal Democrats.) The Republicans were pretty much people who were opposed to whichever group of Democrats were in power at that point.

In Missouri, all those Republicans in charge are just beginning to show a division between fiscal Republicans and social issue Republicans. If the 2018 Republican primary turns out to divide the party, I wouldn’t count McCaskill out of squeaking out a victory in the general.

“Now it’s the liberals who are arming up

Gun shop owner Michael Cargill told NBC News gun classes at his Austin, Texas store are selling out. He’s noticed an increase in LGBTQ, African-American, Hispanic and Muslim customers. Store owners told NBC they’ve seen up to four times as many minority customers than is typical.”

If you are referring to me, I am not a “right-winger”. I could write equivalent posts about the idiotic stuff the Republican Party is doing as well but that wasn’t the question.

You do bring up a great point though. I think it would be very helpful if both parties just ignored or repudiated their most vocal, fringe wings. It takes a whole lot more to run a nation as large as the U.S. than endless arguments about abortion and which facilities to piss and shit in are appropriate for a given person.

The truly important things are really boring but vitally necessary. Unfortunately, most people aren’t interested in reviewing a cost/expenditure curve for Social Security and Medicare out to 2040 even though those types of things are some of the most important issues of all.

In short, you need real leadership and not let the inmates run the asylum.


And both parties do this stuff. I watched a lot (probably WAY to much actually) of the talking heads on the left and right this last elections cycle.

What amazed me was the following. You have some right leaning talking head talking about how Hillary was fucking up and pissing off middle of road/independent/right wing voters.

Then, you have some left wing talking head talking about how Trump was fucking up and pissing off middle of the road/independent/left wing voters.

And I would be going “hole e crap…that is so obvious…I wonder if somebody on team X/Y is actually listening”

But I doubt it. I think both sides are not only spinning things, they are actually buying their own spin. I just think this time it was the democrates that bought it more/did it worse.

You can have your own theories on why people on your side are voting for you. But when the OTHER side is telling you why they are not…THOSE are the people you should probably listen to.

Both parties are in trouble but the Dems are obviously in worse shape at the moment. They also seem curiously complacent about their predicament; this was especially the case before the election and to a lesser extent even now.

Some reasons for this:
The Dems seem to overestimate the importance of the Presidency and feel they are doing well if they have the White House regardless of what is happening elsewhere. The Presidency is indeed important but it’s not as important as the sum total of Congress, governorships and state legislatures.

Before the election there was also this huge over-estimation of Hillary as a candidate. It was always clear she was a weak candidate but in some quarters including a few posters here, you got the impression she was a political titan against whom no Republican could even hope to compete. In the event, she faced one of the weakest candidates of all time and still somehow managed to lose.

The conjunction of the above two points was especially deadly. If you are going to bet everything on the White House you had better have a top candidate every single time otherwise your whole political position can collapse as it now has for the Dems.

The Democrats have also overestimated the electoral power of demographic trends especially in the medium term. The trends are real and will seriously hurt the Republicans in another 10-15 years if they don’t change course but in the meantime they are not decisive partly because Hispanics don’t vote that much and because there aren’t that many of them in the all-important Midwest.

The Dems misinterpreted Obama’s win 2012 and started to think they didn’t need white working class votes any more. This was not a mistake that Obama and his team made; their whole strategy was built around a highly successful defense of the Midwest built around an economic message aimed at white working class voters. If Hillary had followed a similar strategy tailored to Trump and in particular hammered him relentlessly him for his faux populism, she would be President-elect.

It’s probably too early for political prognostications on my part after I got sucked into the greatest polling failure in American history, but there are obvious problems with both Blue and Red wall theories. We heard a lot about the ongoing permanent Republican majority in 2004, and then of course in 2008 it looked like Democrats would have it for a while, and then the results of 2010 gave Republicans every confidence they’d make Obama a one-term president, and so forth.

At the moment, it looks to me like Democrats have the advantage with demographics, but the Republicans have geography, and while this basically splits the electorate overall it gives Republicans some structural advantages (e.g., able to win Presidential elections with a minority of the vote). But there is still a connection to real world events - the governor of Louisiana right now is a Democrat, elected because Bobby Jindal was perceived to have screwed up real bad. You wouldn’t think that Louisiana would ever elect any Democrat to statewide office right now, but it can be done. And in Kansas, disaffection with Sam Brownback led to Democratic and more moderate Republican gains in the legislature there.

So really it’s going to boil down to what kind of job Trump and the new Congress are doing (and more importantly perceived to be doing). If he actually does a good job, or people at least think so, then probably those red-state Democrats are toast come the 2018 Senate elections. But if he’s inept, corrupt, or generally perceived as doing a bad job, this may be the best possible gift those Senators could hope for.

Texas is becoming bluer by the day.
2004: Republican presidential candidate wins by margin of 23%.
2008: Republican presidential candidate wins by margin of 12%.
2012: Republican presidential candidate wins by margin of 16%.
2016: Republican presidential candidate wins by margin of 9%.
If Texas flips blue - and it might by 2024 or 2028 - it will be nearly impossible for Republicans to win the White House again.

Not quite. The Trump states plus New Hampshire (which he lost by half a point) would be enough to compensate for Texas. Minnesota is a reasonable GOP target as well.

The bottom line is that Democrats really need a strategy for winning back white working class voters in the Midwest instead of relying on demographic deliverance. Especially if they want to regain Congress in addition to the Presidency.

I don’t think the Democrats’ problem is ideology, or whites, or rebellion against Obama. It’s simply that it’s a party whose voters are trained to only regard the Presidency as really important, and then only when the candidate is exciting.

You have to make every election seem like the Biggest Election Ever, which is what Republicans are very good at when they think they have a chance to win outside of general elections. Look at what a big deal Republicans made out of electing Scott Brown. A special election, an afterthought, but once Republicans got an idea that there was even the smallest chance, they rallied the troops and got them to the polls.

And while much is made of Republican fearmongering, that’s not how you get people to the polls. There has to be a chance that something your voters will like will come out of it. Electing Scott Brown meant stopping Obamacare. And the GOP has always gone into midterm elections they thought they could win with an agenda that their base would like. Whereas Democrats usually just say, “Beat the Republicans! Because they are Republicans!” And then they wonder why it usually doesn’t work.

There are a few factors here that can prevent that from happening though:

  1. Whites vote 90% Republican, as already occurs in some other southern states, like Alabama and Mississippi. Once Texas gets close enough to flip, that signals to white voters that big changes are coming, and they either accept those changes or vote based on their identity as minority voters do.

  2. 2nd and third generation Latinos vote more Republican. If immigration from Mexico is in fact slowing as some claim, then the Latino vote will become more Republican over time.

  3. The Republican party is already going through changes. By 2024 or 2028 it will be a very different party. It could totally implode, in which Texas goes blue suddenly and decisively, or they change in a way that insures continued dominance in places like Texas. A nativist Republican party that can count on support from 60-70% of whites probably doesn’t have to worry about Texas for a long time.

If Trump won the states he won in 2016, but lost Texas, however he won New Hampshire, that would give him 272. In 2016 the GOP almost won Maine, new hampshire and Minnesota. So the blue wall is crumbling, and Texas alone cannot make up for it.

True, but under the same metrics Clinton almost won Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida; it’s basically impossible to imagine a situation where a Democrat could win Texas and not some other, closer states.

There do seem to be an increasing number of states that always vote one way or the other despite the candidates, the situation, or anything else, but not enough yet to give any party a true wall.

IIRC, consensus was that Hillary Clinton chose Tim Kaine as her running mate because Virginia – despite having a Democratic governor and two Democratic senators and a Democratic track record in the last couple of presidential elections – was considered one of the swing states and needed to be shored up, sure as both houses of the state legislature are Republican, just like the majority of the Virginians currently serving in the House of Representatives are Republicans.

Virginia was in play, is my point.

My other point is, if Texas had actually been in play this last time, do we figure that Trump would’ve maybe picked Ted Cruz as his running mate?

There’s also going to be another census and reapportionment before 2024. I think TX stands to gain another seat or two, but I can’t remember which other states are on pace to gain or lose seats.