Thursday, November 8, 2018

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Inconvenience But No Disaster

Jim Duffy analyses the mid term US election.

In all the commentary on the US, commentators (as they tend to) have forgotten key things.

1. The fact that the GOP got fewer votes than Democrats is not relevant to 2020. The President is not elected by the popular vote but by the electoral college, and that is deliberately skewed to empower smaller states relative over bigger ones (bigger ones have bigger votes, but disproportionally have fewer EC votes than their population would suggest compared to smaller states), rural areas over urban ones, and winning big urban centres will not win the presidency. If it did, Al Gore would have been president. Hillary Clinton would be president. So it doesn't matter who wins more votes. It matters WHERE they win those votes, to enable them to reach the quota.

2. Progressive voters, through dominant in the media and commentariat, only amount to 20% of actual voters, and are predominantly in certain locations. So running a Progressive candidate mathematically cannot win the presidency. The biggest group by far are moderates who are the key swing group. So talking about how a candidate from the Progressive wing of the Democrats, like Beto O'Rourke, or Elizabeth Warren, would win the presidency, is garbage. They would be crushed, because their appeal would not be broad enough outside the media bubble and certain locations to appeal to the coalition that is required to win.

3. The loss of the House is far less significant than suggested, and the holding of the Senate far more significant than suggested.

Firstly, while the House can hold inquiries that can keep people inside the beltway happy, 'exposing Trump' has been shown to be a worthless sideshow. The media have been doing it for two years - yet he still was able to swing key seats in the Senate, meaning that voters have already factored in that they don't particularly like him personally, like his behaviour etc but many of them like what he is doing. The "exposing the truth" approach in politics has been shown not to work. Most people are not swayed by it, and often don't trust the people doing the exposing.

So we see the truth about Brexit being revealed, yet polls still show support for Brexit at 48%ish. The "let's expose the truth" angle beloved of the intelligentsia doesn't work. The only people it impacts on are those who already presume that was the truth anyway. The rest have already factored in the negatives in deciding to vote for a candidate or a cause.

Secondly, now matter how many progressive bills the Democrats pass in the House, they will die in the GOP-controlled Senate. Even if they got through there Trump will veto them. So there is little practical the House can do to impact on people's lives that it itself initiates. All it can do is reject the nuttier proposals of the GOP.

Thirdly, the commentariat are puzzled as to why Trump remains strong with evangelicals. They shouldn't be. It is dead easy to understand. They believe liberals have controlled the judiciary and used them to push liberal interventionist causes. So for the evangelicals, the number 1 aim, for many the only aim, is to pack the judiciary with conservative judges that will row back decisions on abortion, LGBT rights, workers' rights, etc. That Trump has been doing, with spectacular success. He is remaking the judiciary in profound ways from top to bottom. As long as he does that, he will be a hero to evangelicals.

If Liberals are puzzled by that, they need to ask themselves a question: if they had a choice of two candidates, one of whom repulsed them with their private life, but was able to deliver a liberal abortion law, and another whose private life and attitudes were all perfectly PC, but who promised to restrict abortion, which would they vote for? Would they vote for the candidate they personally despised, but who could deliver what they wanted, or the one whose personal behaviour was exemplary but who would restrict abortion? Of course, if they wanted a liberal abortion law they would vote for the candidate who would deliver it, even if he or she was a sexist racist pig. Evangelicals are doing exactly the same - except that for them, a conservative judiciary rather than a liberal abortion law is the "must have" they are voting for.

For them, stopping abortion, stopping gay marriage and stopping liberal decisions is so crucial it doesn't matter if in his private life Trump is the anti-thesis of their beliefs. ALL that matters is that the judiciary is made conservative. That, they believe, entirely will change the US in a way they want.

Losing the House is of no importance to that. It has no role in selecting judges or confirming them. But the Senate is crucial. So for his many many Evangelical voters the fact that the GOP still controls the Senate means it is full steam ahead in remaking the judiciary in the way they want. So Trump can continue to appoint conservative judges and have them rubber stamped by the Senate, and in two years time millions of Evangelicals will flock to the polls to vote for him because he is delivering a conservative judiciary.

In terms of real influence on the 2020 race, the Democrats needed to win BOTH houses, to force Trump to veto laws that would help ordinary people, ensuring he got a backlash.

If they only could get one, it needed to be the Senate. If they could block his judiciary nominees, that would undermine his appeal to millions of Evangelical voters. They can tolerate voting for a repulsive unchristian adulterer if that unchristian adulterer is delivering a conservative judiciary that makes decisions based on the bible. But if that unchristian adulterer does not offer a conservative judiciary, then what is his appeal? It would damage his electoral prospects. If he was forced by losing the Senate to appoint moderate judges capable of getting through the Senate, that would undermine his appeal to Evangelicals.

That was his Achilles heel, which is why he devoted so much time to stopping the loss of the Senate rather than the House. He could afford to lose the House. He could not afford to lose the Senate. He needs it to keep his Evangelical and conservative vote.

So, while losing the House is a big inconvenience for Trump, it is no disaster. There is little the House can do to dent his electoral prospects in reality. Losing the Senate would have been a calamity.

Conversely, for the Democrats, winning both houses would have been a massive achievement. If they had to just win one, it would have been preferable for it to have been the Senate. The House is a convenient win, but not an important one, and it is likely to bog down the Democrats into hearings into the Trump administration that will go over the heads of most voters, and only matter to those already going to vote Democrat in 2020 anyway.

➽Jim Duffy is a writer.

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