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Friday, November 18, 2022

By the numbers

The World Cup begins on Sunday.  It has been the single biggest event in my sporting calendar since I first had the opportunity to watch one in 1974, and although its award to Qatar was a disgrace, I am thrilled that it will fill up my time for what is always the most depressing month of the year for me because of the early New England sunsets.  After nearly 18 years of diligent weekly postings I could use a brief vacation from History Unfolding and I may decide to give myself one--we shall see.  I promise to be back for the new year.   Meanwhile, I have time for some election commentary, and trust me, you are most unlikely to have seen similar commentary anywhere else.

It is now clear that while the Democrats have definitely held on to the Senate and will probably, in my opinion, increase their majority by one next month, the Republicans have regained control of the House of Representatives by a majority of between one and five.  Previously worried about a red wave, the mainstream media are portraying this as a Republican defeat.  It isn't--the Republicans are substantially more powerful with one House under their control and this will almost surely make it impossible for the Democrats to pass any major legislation for the next two years.  Moreover, as I have just discovered, the aggregate data suggests that this is the most encouraging election for the Republicans to have taken place in many years.  Hold on to your hats while I explain why.

In 2016, while Donald Trump was narrowly defeating Hillary Clinton while losing the popular vote, the Republicans won the popular vote in House elections quite narrowly, by 63.2 million votes to 61.8 million, or 49.1 percent to 48 percent.  That was good enough for a substantial 241-194 majority in the House, which suggests that Democrats very validly complained about the impact of Republican gerrymandering in various states--I don't know exactly how to do the math, but I don't think that a 1 percent edge in the overall vote should have produced a 47-seat edge.  The turnaround two  years into the Trump administration was quite astonishing.  This time the Democrats polled 60.6 million votes (53.4 percent) to 50.9 million for the Republicans (44.6 percent.)  That gave them a 41-seat gain and a 235-200 majority.  That also seems to me a somewhat low majority result for a 6 percent edge in the national popular vote.

Gerrymandering also seems to have played a role in the 2020 elections.  While Joe Biden was beating Donald Trump with a seven million popular plurality, 51.3 percent to 46.8 percent, the House Democrats did only slightly worse, winning with 77.5 million votes to 72.8 million, and 50.8 percent of the Congressional vote to 47.7 percent.  They nonetheless lost 13 seats, leaving their majority at 222-213, which once again looks a bit harrow to me given their 3 percent edge in the popular vote.

Well, brace yourselves, sports fans.  In the last midterms the Democrats had won 60.6 million votes for 53.4 percent of the total.  This year the incomplete tally shows them with 49.7 million votes and just 47.3 percent of the total.  The Republicans, with 53.4 million votes, took 50.8 percent of the total. This means, to begin with, that so far, with votes still being counted in some areas, the turnout was about 7 million votes lower than in the last midterm election.  It means that the Republicans did much better in this national vote than in any of the three previous ones.  It also looks to me as if gerrymandering didn't help them at all.  A 50.8-47.3 percent majority, I would think, would be expected to give them a significantly higher majority than they now project to have.

Now progressives tend to set the tone of Democratic commentary, perhaps because they now rule the nation's newsrooms. They are not only treating this result as a Democratic victory--instead of a warning of impending disaster next time around--but also crediting enthusiastic young voters for it.  Some that I know are also crowing that old Republican voters are dying off.  Unless the CNN exit polls were many miles off base, that is a fantasy.  According those polls, the 18-29 age group was 12 percent of the vote and 63% of it voted Democratic.  That was by far the highest Democratic percentage of any demographic slice, but it amounts to just 8 percent of the total vote, or about 17 percent of the total Democratic vote.  The 30-44 age group, only 21 percent of the electorate, voted Democratic by only 51 percent, making 11 percent of the total.  After that things get much worse for the Democrats.  The 45-64s (mostly Xers) were by far the largest bloc, 39 percent of the vote, and they voted Republican 54-44 percent, a landslide.  That still makes the Democratic Gen X vote 17 percent of the electorate, that is, a larger share than either their Gen Zs or Millennials.   The 65 and overs (basically Boomers with some Silents) were 28 percent of the electorate and 55 percent of them voted Republican--almost the same proportion as for Gen X.  

Now David Shor, a very sensible Democratic analyst, has argued that  the Democrats did better than expected because many independents and some Republicans voted Democratic because of the abortion issue and the shadow of Donald Trump.  The abortion issue clearly had a remarkable impact in Michigan and Minnesota, where the state legislatures flipped Democratic, and I expect there will be some referendums about it next time around, which might help Democratic turnout.  Donald Trump also appears to be a big loser in this election as well, perhaps in part because Republicans haven't woken up to how well they actually did, either.  Trump's demise, however, stands to hurt the Democrats a lot.  Any apparently reasonable Republican candidate, including Ron DeSantis, looks like a good bet for 2024, all the more so since we have no idea who the Democratic candidate will be if Biden, as seems likely, does not run.  If the Republicans simply allow local abortion votes to take their course and abandon Trump, their prospects look fairly bright.

I will try to update this post in a few weeks when final numbers are in.


Energyflow said...

I certainly hope that people will now be more cautious. Boomers or Prophet generation archetypes are very self assured, ideological. If my generation, practical and conservative take the reins of power for a decade or so maybe we can get back to basics in so many areas of life and not just look towards permanent convulsions due to social and technological changes.

latheChuck said...

Was the youth vote influenced by the (temporary) promise of student debt relief? It was ruled an unconstitutionally excessive use of Executive power immediately after the election, but, well, that was AFTER the election. Biden's team could have planned the original executive order to hold just long enough to bring out the grateful debtors. On the other hand, I'm not sure that gratitude influences votes, as much as the promise of a future benefit. (In 2020, student debt relief was a promise of the Biden campaign, which might have made it more influential. The 2022 execution of it was just "see how hard I'm trying".)