End of Semester Recap: Election 2016

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 5.30.02 PM.pngMy Topic: My topic covered the 2016 Election. The electoral map changed drastically from 2008 to 2016, on all levels, and I wanted to explore the factors that could explain the shift.

My Essays: For the definition paper, I explain how the map shifted in 2016. I tried to keep this one free of bias, and rather than discussing the political factors that might have played a role in the ultimate result, I specifically tried to stick to the statistics and data regarding the changes on the map (e.g. the vote swing in Macomb County Michigan which was enough to turn the state red).

For the causual paper, I explored the different political and social factors that might have contributed to Donald Trump’s electoral college win. At the end of the day, what really made that happen was a massive number of traditionally Democratic voters who jumped ship to pull the lever for Trump. That alone wasn’t able to do it, though, he still needed high Republican turnout, and despite high unfavorability ratings from members of his own party, he still turned out voters. Factors such as the Supreme Court might have played a role in causing these voters to hold their nose, and push the button, despite their negative feelings for him, or their preference for another candidate (e.g. Rubio, Cruz or Mcmullin).

The proposal essay included my suggestion on how the Democratic party can regain its relevance on Capitol Hill. I think they have to embrace, and learn to appreciate more ideological diversity in their party, i.e. candidates who have more centrist views. Ten years ago, states like Arkansas, North Dakota, and West Virginia were three of the bluest in the country; the issue for the Democrats, though, was the fact that the party leaders and voters in those states had more moderate to conservative views on social issues such as Abortion, which is a key issue to voters in that region. Today, the party has moved leftward, and those moderate senators and governors have either been purged, or were forced to tick left (like Bob Casey did) in order to align themselves with a more progressive party. That shift to the left has turned former moderate blue states into Republican strongholds. In order to take them back, the party needs to change its tune.

All of my research began by looking at interactive electoral/county maps, such as the one included in this post that shows the county vote shifts from 2012 to 2016 (red arrows show a shift in favor of the Republicans, Blue arrows show a shift favorable to Democrats). When looking into the result of an event, the most logical first step, in my eyes at least, would be to analyze the actual event itself. Once I had an understanding of the event, then the factors that contributed to the event would become more apparent and they would become easier to research. After analyzing the maps, I’d take a look at the exit polls for particular states, or the public polling data taken during the campaign. Saying that “Donald Trump’s stance on trade contributed to his victory” would mean nothing if the majority of the voters in the states he flipped didn’t also indicate that in the polling data. Any subjective opinion, or argument I put forth in my papers were reinforced by some type of statistical analysis. When I needed to reference a specific piece of data, or event that occurred, I found an article that covered it and referenced the appropriate passage. The only time I ever relied heavily on an article was for the rebuttal piece, when I had to shoot down an argument I found on vox.

http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/president — 2016 interactive electoral map shown on top of the page. Also shows senate/governor/house races)

http://www.cnn.com/election/results/exit-polls/ohio/president — CNN exit polls

http://www.nytimes.com/elections/2008/results/president/map.html — The 2008 interactive map was particularly useful, because it lets you see what the map looked like in past years as well… dating all the way back to 1992.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/183686/democrats-shift-left.aspx — For my proposal essay, when I claim that the Democratic party has veered leftward, there’s actual evidence of that happening over time.

I consider myself to be relatively knowledgable about this topic, so I don’t know how much I learned, but I like to write, and I especially like writing about topics that I like, so I enjoyed this process a whole lot. In terms of my perspective on the topic… our country is very divided right now. Coastal and urban areas are heavily Democratic, while everywhere else is turning redder.

I’d like to see less polarization in politics, I’d like to see more bipartisan cooperation, on and off Capitol Hill. Long gone are the days when Reagan and Tip O’Neill (A very conservative President & very liberal Speaker of the House) could work together in a bipartisan fashion to get legislation passed despite all their disagreements. Today, people can’t even be bipartisan during Thanksgiving. I’d keep going here, with what I’d like to see, but soon enough, I’ll sound like I’m declaring my intention to run for office.

And I’m not quite there yet…

Advertisements

BLOG POST 8: Final Essay Idea

Last November, on MSNBC’s election night coverage, Democratic pundit James Carville said “If Trump wins the presidency, the Democratic Party will have the least amount of power than I can ever remember.” (Carville) The former Clinton advisor had a point. Over the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, the Democratic party, as we knew it just one decade ago, was destroyed.

They lost nearly 1,000 seats at the state and local levels, in addition to both chambers of congress and the White House, after holding all three of them just three years ago. Over just six years, vast swaths of blue all throughout the south, and midwest, are now ruby red, and I believe some of the new aspects of the Democratic platform are to blame.

As I’ve expressed in my essays, it’s undeniable that they’ve veered leftward on many social and cultural issues (and even a few policy issues, e.g. Gun Control), and in doing so, they’ve alienated many areas of the country that don’t hold the same values. Twenty years ago, moderate Democratic senators such as Tom Daschle (SD), and Jay Rockefeller (WV), were elected to represent states that, today, are amongst the reddest on the map. Those moderates are all but gone now, as they’ve either been purged (Joe Lieberman), or have ticked left in order to align themselves with the party’s new platform (Bob Casey).

Unless the Democrats embrace more ideological diversity in the party, and acknowledge that there’s a place for moderates, they’ll have a tough time winning back control of congress. In my third essay, I’ll propose a way in which they can do just that.

 

Works Cited
“Election Night 2016 MSNBC COVERAGE (COMPLETE).” YouTube. YouTube, 12 Dec. 2016. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
Murdock, Deroy. “Obama’s Legacy Is a Devastated Democratic Party.” New York Post. N.p., 26 Dec. 2016. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

Visual Argument

wasserman-landslides1

 

Over the last 25 years, our political culture has become increasingly polarized, and this image, from Dave Wasserman’s article “Purple America Has All But Disappeared,” on fivethirtyeight.com, illustrates how that’s happened. The image’s maps show every county in the United States of America, and the shaded areas, are counties that were won by candidates by twenty points or more (blue for Democratic counties, and red for the ones won by the GOP). The darker the county, the wider the margins of victory become (the darkest counties were won by over fifty points). The white areas represent counties that were decided in tighter, or somewhat tighter races. The maps simply point out that since 1992, the number of swing or closer counties has been shrinking.

Back in 1992 and 1996 the political map looked drastically different than it does now. In those two election cycles, states that are known to heavily favor Republicans today, such as Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia went to the Democrat, Bill Clinton in either one or both of those elections. As can be seen in the photo, however, everything changes after 1996. The swaths of blue in the Midwest and the South, begin to disappear, and by 2016, many of them are regulated to urban centers, the west coast, and New England. The number of deep red counties exploded, spreading outward from the great plains, up through the Rockies, down through the Sun Belt, followed by Appalachia, and in 2016, the once blue Rust Belt, was swept up in the wave.

Amongst the hundreds of counties that were won by Donald Trump in a blowout last fall, are millions of voters who once considered themselves to be moderate Democrats, and as their party has veered leftward, pushing a more progressive agenda, those voters jumped ship, and played a key role in giving the GOP control of the White House, and both chambers of congress. Likewise, as Republican Party has moved to the right on issues such as abortion and gun control, they’ve seen a similar trend with millions of their former moderate voters. Once upon a time, the county that I call home, Montgomery County, PA, a mostly middle class suburb of Philadelphia, was a Republican stronghold. From 1916 to 1988, it was won by the Republican candidate in every presidential election but one. Since Bill Clinton won it in 1992, it’s gone to the Democrats in every election cycle, each time by a wider margin than the last. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won it by over twenty points.

If it wasn’t apparent after last November, this visual makes it crystal clear; our country is deeply divided, and the election by election progression that’s shown, illustrates just how polarized our political culture has become. Last week, the filibuster didn’t get nuked for Supreme Court Justices on a whim, it got nuked after decades of gridlock created from the two parties veering further and further away from the middle of the aisle.

All in all, this phenomenon probably hurts the Democrats more than the Republicans. The Democrats held 57 Senate seats in the 103rd Congress after Clinton won the 1992 election, and at that time, states that are considered to be staunchly Republican today such as Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas each had a Democratic senator, while Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Nebraska, and West Virginia, each had two. As evidenced by the maps, a massive number of counties in those fifteen states, went from blue or white in 1992, to dark red in 2016. If those states are out of play for the Democrats, it’ll be extremely difficult for them to make substantial gains in the upper chamber of congress and retake control. Still, if the Republicans do a poor job governing, the pendulum may swing back anyway, regardless of whether or not the Democrats change their platform to focus on areas such as the midwest.

Abraham Lincoln once said “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” and while the country obviously isn’t in the same place it was in during the Civil War, perhaps this visual serves as a warning to all Americans, about what’s at stake if the trends continue.

Work Cited

Nytimes. “Election Results 2008.” The New York Times. The New York Times, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2017.

Wasserman, David. “Purple America Has All But Disappeared.” FiveThirtyEight. FiveThirtyEight, 08 Mar. 2017. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

Wilkes University. “1682-2006.” Pennsylvania Election Statistics. The Wilkes University Election Statistics Project, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2017.

 

Blog #5

In my first essay, I examined the county/state changes that swung the 2016 Presidential Election. I went on to conclude that Donald Trump able to win because he A: Flipped a large number of Democratic voters in historically blue areas, and B: maximized Republican turnout in traditionally red counties.

While in the last paper, I simply noted the statistical changes in vote totals, I’d now like to discuss why he was able to garner such support, specifically the support that the Democratic party lost. There’s been a whole host of theories, and I’d like to try and separate fact from fiction.

Since I don’t have to give much more background on the state/county results on the electoral map, and have answered the question of how it happened, I expect to dive right in, and work with some new statistics so I can now explore the question of why.

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 5.22.17 PM

 

CNN. “Exit Polls.” CNN.com. CNN, 08 Nov. 2016. Web. 11 Mar. 2017.

Annotated Bib

Blehar, Brandon Finnigan Jeffrey. “Why Trump Really Won Wisconsin And Pennsylvania.” BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed, 24 Nov. 2016. Web. 11 Mar. 2017.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/brandonfinnigan/why-trump-really-won-wisconsin-and-pennsylvania?utm_term=.gkZ4lz7Yd#.wldJXd4BG

In this article, Brandon Finnigan, and Jeffrey Blehar from DecisionDeskHQ explain how Donald Trump won Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, two states he was expected to lose. At the time it was published, there were unsubstantiated reports circulating in the news claiming that hacked voting machines in those states were responsible for the unexpected outcome. Finnigan and Blehar dispel that notion, and instead conclude that Trump carried the two states as a result of garnering unusually high levels of support from white working class voters, even in some areas that don’t consistently favor Republicans. Since their conclusion aligns with the voting trends throughout many areas of the country, their argument is far more fundamentally sound than the one about hacked machines. In order to properly analyze last year’s election, I’ll need to familiarize myself with, and rely on statistical, objective evidence such as election returns, and voting trends rather than theoretical or subjective notions. The fact that the white working class played such a role in deciding this election is very telling, and can be used as groundwork to build or structure an argument that explains how we got here. If I were to depend on an unconfirmed report or a subjective argument, I wouldn’t be able to build a strong case, simply because any explanation I’d make would be rooted in opinion rather than fact.

“Presidential Election Results” The New York Times. The New York Times, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2017.

http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/president

This page contains the New York Times’ electoral map from 2016. It’s chock full of information and statistics pertaining to last November’s election. The map includes state voting breakdowns by county for the Presidential and Senate races, and congressional district for the House races. Additionally, it also compares, contrasts and documents the county vote totals and how they shifted from the 2012 election. This information will prove, and has proven to be invaluable to my research because it’s entirely objective, factual, and therefore not skewed in any way by a writer’s opinion or bias. For example, if in the event I encountered an argument stating that Hillary Clinton lost simply because she received low turnout in urban areas, I can point to massive Democratic surges in Miami-Dade or Fulton county on the NYT map as a rebuttal to such a claim, and use the information to structure a better argument of my own. The bottom line is that arguments that are reinforced by empirical data are much sturdier than those that aren’t, and the data included in this map is as objective and empirical as could be.

Blog Post 2 (sorry I’m incapable of keeping these short)

On the early morning of November 9th, nearly every voter in America probably found themselves wondering; “what the hell just happened?”

In the aftermath, everyone seemed to have their theories and reasons as to why Donald Trump was elected president. Jenee Desmond-Harris’s piece “Trump’s win is a reminder of the incredible, unbeatable power of racism” from Vox.com attempts to answer that question by asserting that racism was the driving force that got Donald Trump elected and that the white voters who pulled the lever for him harbor intolerance and racism as well. It’s a popular argument, and has seemed typify the response from some members of the Democratic Party and the political left from November 9th onward. Harris cites multiple studies, previous statements by Trump, and CNN exit polls to reinforce her claims. However, I believe the entire basis of that argument, whether members of the Democratic party and their supporters believe it to be true or not, poses an enormous problem for Democrats moving forward.

Even if Harris’s argument wasn’t flimsy (It’s emotionally based, entirely subjective, and by and large, breaks the cardinal rule of statistics: correlation doesn’t equal causation), I’d still argue that relying on it is hurtful to the Democratic party because of the message it sends a key contingent of its voters. The fact is, yes, Trump did indeed win an enormous number of white voters, but many of them were former Democrats from reliably blue states, in a historically blue geographic region (the rust belt), who switched sides last fall, and attacking them may only alienate them further. If that gives the Republicans the advantage in the rust belt, it would be catastrophic for the Democrats (PA, OH, MI, WI & IA are worth a combined 70 electoral votes), that to me is the issue here. If Harris wants to blast Trump to high heaven, then by all means, she should do it. It’s blasting his voters that I consider to be dangerous, and Harris does that throughout the article. For instance, in one segment, titled “Almost any way you slice it, white people supported Trump on Election Day and nonwhite people didn’t,” Harris opines: “These huge swaths of white voters were willing to overlook the many ways in which Trump was unqualified, temperamentally unfit, and dangerous and represented a massive threat to American democracy.”

“The most generous interpretation is that white voters chose him despite his racism, not because of it. But that’s a very difficult case to make, given his massive weaknesses.” Actually, it’s a very easy case to make. Hillary Clinton was also a historically unpopular candidate, and ran a historically poor campaign. To illustrate that point, after the Democratic National Convention in July Clinton did not make a single campaign stop in Wisconsin, a reliably blue state that was polling tighter in 2016 than it had in the past, but did find time to visit Arizona, and Utah, states that turned blue only once over the last fifty eight years. Clinton would not only become the first Democrat to lose Wisconsin in over a quarter century, but the state’s incumbent Republican Senator, Ron Johnson, was re-elected in a monumental upset victory over his Democratic challenger. Meanwhile, Arizona and Utah went Republican, yet again. In North Carolina, a critical swing state where the average ACA premiums are expected to increase by 40% this year, Clinton sent Lena Dunham to campaign on her behalf. Trump, who promised to repeal the ACA during the campaign and made more visits to the state than Clinton, won it by more than three points, and Richard Burr, North Carolina’s Republican Senator, was re-elected by an even wider margin.

Many of these voters that the Democratic party lost last fall actually voted for Barack Obama not once, but twice. Trump flipped six states, (and one congressional district in northern Maine worth one electoral vote) that went for Obama in 2008 and 2012, and three of those (Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania) last voted Republican before many of us in this class were even born. Harris cites a three year old study, where a political scientist from Harvard gauged the reaction of a small handful of white people after they sat next to a pair of Latino men on a train in Boston as evidence that the hundreds of thousands of voters throughout the rust belt who supported Democrats over the last quarter century somehow turned into racists over the last four years. I believe that other factors, such as healthcare premiums (remember North Carolina where premiums increased by 40%? According to a CBS poll from late October 2016, when asked whether Obamacare hurt or helped people, 53% of North Carolina voters said “hurt” as opposed to only 38% who said “help.”), the condition of our economy (62% of voters rated the condition as “poor” according to CNN exit polls, and Trump won them by 31 points), or our country’s trade deals (according to CNN, the majority of voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan believed international trade took away U.S. jobs) played a big role in their decision. The bottom line is that there’s no evidence to suggest that all those people in Wisconsin, who, for the last 32 years voted for Democrats (including the nation’s first black president twice, and Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay individual to be elected to the U.S. Senate) became racists at some point over the last few hundred days because they decided to support a Republican in the last election cycle. Labeling these voters as racists could potentially estrange them further.

Were there Trump voters who held outright bigoted, intolerant and abhorrent beliefs? Absolutely, and while it’s important that their behavior is unequivocally denounced, they also made up a relatively small fraction of his support. For that reason, I think it’s bad for the Democratic party, and the political left to give them credit for Trump’s victory because it sends one of two messages, and neither bodes well. Either it means that they’re choosing to focus on a few thousand bigoted lunatics from the fringe of society over the millions of Ex-Democratic in the midwest and all throughout the country who abandoned their party last November, or they’re grouping those ex-Democratics into the same bucket along with them. Whichever it is, neither gives off the vibe of John Cusack holding a radio, and at this moment, that’s who the Democratic Party and its supporters need to take a cue from.

Simply put, the Democrats need to carry those voters in order to win the electoral college, and if they want to lure them back, the first step to making that happen would be to try and understand why they left the party in the first place. Dismissing their concerns or angrily fixating on their genetic makeup certainly won’t do the trick. What will? I think Yair Rosenberg, a political commentator who supported Hillary Clinton during the campaign said it best on twitter the morning after the election: “[I t]old [my] students today: key lesson of election is liberal politicians need to deal w[ith] their electorates as they are, not as they wish they were.” The bottom line is that the Democrats need to win back the moderate vote in order to take back control of the government. How can they do that? Taking Rosenberg’s advice would be a pretty good starting point.

Works Cited
Bryan, Bob. “Here’s How Much Obamacare Premiums Are Going up in Every State.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 26 Oct. 2016. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.
“CNN Exit Polls.” CNN.com. CNN, 8 Nov. 2016. Web.
Desmond-Harris, Jenee. “Trump’s Win Is a Reminder of the Incredible, Unbeatable Power of Racism.” Vox. Vox, 09 Nov. 2016. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.
Engel, Pamela. “Clinton Never Set Foot in Wisconsin – Then She Lost It, and It Helped Cost Her the Presidency.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 09 Nov. 2016. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.
Glassbergrglassberg@charlotteobserver.com, Ronnie. “How Many times Have Clinton and Trump Been to North Carolina? Here’s Your Answer.” Charlotteobserver. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.
Politics, CBS News. “CBS News Battleground Tracker: North Carolina, Oct. 30, 2016.” Scribd. Scribd, n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.
Rosenberg, Yair. “Told Students Today: Key Lesson of Election Is Liberal Politicians Need to Deal W/ Their Electorates as They Are, Not as They Wish They Were.” Twitter. Twitter, 09 Nov. 2016. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.