Here is why I think Americans are not as fearful as the 2016 election suggested.
But first, a disclaimer: two huge assumptions underlie my thinking. Assumption one is that over the last few years, people who have voted Republican are fearful. They buy Trump’s argument that America is no longer great, is wracked by internal and external threats, and has descended into “carnage” — or, at the very least, is headed in the wrong direction. Assumption two is that people who have voted Democratic the last few years are content, believing that although things can be better, America is great and is largely headed in the right direction.
That said, here goes.
According to the non-partisan Cook Political Report, in the 2016 presidential election the Democratic candidate received 65,844,610 votes (48.2%) to the Republican candidate’s 62,979,636 votes (46.1%). My guess (assumption three — sorry!) is that the 7,804,213 voters (5.7%) who cast ballots for other candidates were driven by disgust with Trump and Clinton or by ideology. Add them to Clinton’s total and the percentage of voters motivated by something other than fear approaches landslide proportions.
Yet the Republican won that election.
Senate races are staggered, which allows us to evaluate the fear-contentment scale over a six-year span. I did a study of Senate representation from each state. If both a state’s senators come from the same party, I credited that party with the state’s total population in the 2010 national census. If one senator comes from each party, I gave each party half the state’s 2010 population. The current Senate has 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats (including two independents). When I added up the populations represented by each party, I got this: Democrats 172 million, Republicans 136 million — a lopsided 56%-44% majority for the Democrats.
Yet the Republicans control the Senate.
The Republicans won the 2016 national vote for the House of Representatives, according to Ballotpedia. But their margin was just 1.1%: 63,164,365 (49.1%) to 61,750,858 (48%).
Yet the Republicans control 241 seats (55.4%) in the House while the Democrats control just 194 seats (44.6%).
So if my assumptions are valid, we have evidence that most American voters don’t scare easily.
We also have evidence that America is sliding into apartheid.
I don’t think there’s any dispute that the backbone of the Republican party is conservative whites, or that the Democratic party is home to minorities and liberal whites. Which means we have a minority consisting of conservative whites ruling a majority consisting of non-whites and liberal whites. The difference from the old South Africa is not of kind, but of considerable degree: under the Afrikaner system, far fewer whites oppressed a much larger majority, and did so more viciously.
So Donald Trump is right: the system is rigged. But it’s rigged in his favor. The Electoral College, not the popular vote, gave him his victory. The Great Compromise that led to creation of the Senate has given disproportionate clout to sparsely populated states politically dominated by conservative whites: the 25 smallest states send 29 Republicans to the Senate, but just 21 Democrats. (Not-so-fun fact: those 25 smallest states contain less than 17% of the population.)
I’m not challenging the legitimacy of the election. Everyone knew the rules, and the Republicans and Democrats played by them. I also believe the allegations of Russian manipulation remain just that: allegations. (Matt Taibbi, America’s best journalist, has been spectacular on this subject.)
But I am challenging America’s smug self-regard as a model democracy.
Moreover, I expect a fresh onslaught of gerrymandering and voting rights restrictions by Republican state legislatures to further our resemblance to old-time South Africa.
What to do about it? Were I more a political animal I would move to Ohio and persuade several thousand of my fellow libtard snowflake Californians to come with me. By swelling the ranks of contented voters in that state (as well as in Wisconsin and Michigan) we could nudge the Electoral College back in the Democrats’ direction, and perhaps defeat a few fear-mongering senators and congresspeople too.
There would be other benefits. The Fabulous Wife has family in Ohio and we’d get to see them more often. And given the disparity in home values, we’d be land barons.
But we’d also have to deal with winter — and that’s truly frightening.