Archive | August, 2019

Issue LXXXII: The Future Calling from California?

18 Aug

A couple of months ago, California Governor Gavin Newsom told HBO that California today is what the future of America looks like.  A typical line from a California governor, but he ended the interview saying that the Republican party of California has reached “third party status” and the national Republican Party “doesn’t even know what’s about to hit them.”  He felt sorry for them.

Is this bluster or is there something real to be said about this?  What does this say or predict about Texas in the future if indeed Texas is in transition as California was between 1980 and 1992?  When more than 20% of all Americans live in Texas or California, what does it say about America?

The Republican State that Once Was

California entered the national stage as a Union state supporting the party of Lincoln.  It produced three Republican presidents: Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan.  In fact, Southern California brought us the modern Republican Party of suburbs and automobiles.  Orange County epitomized sunny selfishness and right-wing lunacy.  Ronald Reagan described it as Republican heaven.  The John Birch Society, Focus on the Family, Pentecostalism, and Hollywood all started or flourished in the warm Pacific sun of SoCal.  Its referendum process even brought us anti-tax politics (Prop 13) in 1978 and anti-immigrant politics (Prop 187) in 1994.

While Confederacy-supporting Texas was part of the Solid Democratic South, it elected only two Republican governors in the 20th century.  California was the opposite with only four Democratic governors in the 20th century; two of them were father and son (Edmund and Pat Brown).  Texas became solidly Republican between 1978-1998 while California became solidly Democratic between 1992-2010.  I showed how the former happened last year; now I demonstrate how California flipped.  I began my analysis in the 1950s when the modern two-party system began in California with Pat Brown’s election as governor.


Presidential Peaks

At the presidential level, California voted for the Republican every single election between 1952 and 1988 except one.  The Democrats usually batted around 3.2 – 3.7 million votes in the same period.  Their candidates for governor never surpassed 4 million until 1998 and sometimes did not even make 3 million.  But both parties were growing their vote for president; the Republicans just grew faster.

The Republican vote grew from 3 million in 1950s to 5 million in the 1980s.  Their favorite sons Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan both won 49 state landslides for president in 1972 and 1984 respectively.  But the beginning of the end started between those two spectacular triumphs.  Between the 1972 and 1984 landslides, the Democrat/liberal vote began to grow from 3.475 million in 1972 to 3.742 million in 1976 to 3.823 million in 1980 (including liberal independent John Anderson’s votes) to 3.922 million in 1984.  California’s population was around the same size as Texas today.

California also began to have an exodus in the 1980s of conservative whites to other Mountain West states who brought their politics with them.  Focus on the Family relocated to Colorado Springs.  Two million whites left the state over the decades.  Los Angeles transformed from the backbone of the Republican Party into a growing Democratic stronghold.  No Republican would win LA County after 1984 for president.

Getting to 5 million

I noticed a pattern when looking for the tipping point in California elections.  I kept coming across the number 5 million.  Once the Democrats reached 5 million votes for Senate, President, or Governor, the Republicans never won another election in that category.  Michael Dukakis moved the needle to 4.7 million in 1988 and won Los Angeles despite losing California.

But Bill Clinton in 1992 took over 5 million votes and the state never voted for a Republican again for president.  That same day, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein got elected to the Senate with more than 5 million votes.  No Republican has come close to winning those seats again.  And the Democratic presidential vote has continued to grow since 1992 to 2016 by 3.6 million votes.  California traditionally is a low turnout state, but with the state now promoting voting, there seems to be no apparent ceiling to the Democratic presidential vote.

The last traditional Republican politician to win the governor’s mansion was Pete Wilson in 1994 with 4.7 million.  Arnold Schwarzenegger’s victories in the 2000s never had more than 4.8 million votes.  Once the Democrats hit 5 million votes in 2010, the gubernatorial races became increasingly comical.   First, Republicans faced a Democratic Party that kept growing and growing.  Then they had a bigger problem.  They began to shrink.


What Decline looks like and the falling ceiling

Between 1960 and 2004, a landslide presidential win for either party was a margin of 1.2 to 1.5 million.  In fact, George W. Bush received more votes for president than any Republican in the history of California in 2004 with 5.5 million votes; that was just a smidge more than Ronald Reagan’s 5.46 million in 1984 when California had 9 million fewer people.  After 2004, it spirals downwards.


Declining Republican Presidential Vote

Year Democrat Republican Margin
2000 5,861,203 4,567,429 1,293,774
2004 6,745,485 5,509,826 1,235,659
2008 8,274,473 5,011,781 3,262,692
2012 7,854,285 4,839,958 3,014,327
2016 8,753,788 4,483,810 4,269,978


Republican presidential nominees now routinely lose the nation’s largest state by 3 million votes.  The maximum number of votes a Republican can get for governor, president, or senator seems to be around 4.7 million.  The last year a Republican cracked 5 million for president, senator, and governor are respectively 2008, 1988, and never.  The presidential vote is down a million since Ronald Reagan’s 49 state landslide of 1984.

GOP Meltdown Continues

What about Newsom’s quip about the Republicans becoming a third party?  Can they lose even worse?  Yes, the wipeout only gets worse after 2016.

The reversal in the OC has been swift, rapid, and complete.  First, Hillary Clinton won Orange County, the first Democrat to do so since the Great Depression.  Then Gavin Newsom wins every coastal county from Mexico to Oregon in a 3 million vote landslide for governor.  When all the mail in votes are counted, every single Republican in Congress lost in Orange County in 2018.  Finally, after a few months, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in Orange County.

In Sacramento, California’s Republican legislators used to wield power because the budget and new taxes required a two-thirds vote from the Legislature.  Now the State Assembly has gone from a 54%-46% Democratic majority to a 77%-23% Democratic majority in 20 years.  Republicans can’t even block a budget anymore with the Democratic supermajority.

Republicans even failed to make the Senate election in November 2016 and 2018 under California’s new top two system.  How long before their gubernatorial candidate fails to make the November ballot?  Could we get a Green Party or DSA candidate against a Democrat if the Republicans become a non-entity in the future?

The consequences for the Electoral College are even more disastrous.  The larger and larger margins in California make it potentially impossible for the Republicans to win the popular vote.  Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by 2.86 million votes.  Without California, she would have lost the popular vote by 1.4 million.  If Donald Trump had lost California by the typical 1.2 million votes as Republicans used to before Obama, Donald Trump would have won the national popular vote by 100,000.  As wins in Texas become closer and closer, California becomes a bigger shaper of the national popular vote.  This is a profound problem for democratic legitimacy of any Republican president in the future.

Issue LXXI: Texas, Turnout and the Presidency

14 Aug

A recent poll from the Dallas Morning News showed former Vice President Joseph R. Biden (D-DE) and Senator Bernard Sanders leading by 2% in a presidential election in Texas against President Donald J. Trump.  Granted, this was within the margin of error, but it tantalized political observers locally and nationally.  It is consistent with a UT poll showing a state split down the middle on re-electing the president but with 60% of independents likely voting against him.  Is Trump losing Texas a Democratic pipe dream or something worth investigating?

This led me to re-analyze the final numbers in last year’s Bhatany Report on the 2018 U.S. Senate race in Texas between Senator Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz and Congressman Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke.  The short story is Texas is a young, diverse, urban, and immigrant state which has very low voter turnout.  Typically, 50th of the 50 states.  The few who vote (especially in gubernatorial years) are older and disproportionately white because cities and the Texas-Mexico border have appalling few voters.  For a state with 28.7 million residents with 18 million eligible voters and 15.8 million registered voters, there are not many voters.

How few?  Presidential elections this century have all had less than 9 million votes while midterm elections have been around 5 million or less until last year’s Senate race jumped up to 8.375 million votes.  The interesting number I keep finding is no Republican has gotten more than 4.68 million votes.  Remember, there are 15.8 million registered voters in the state.


Stagnation and Growth Reversed

The Republican Party of Texas used to be the party of growth.  Between 1976 and 2000, the Republican presidential vote doubled.  Now it seems to have run out of gas.

Presidential Vote

Year Republican Democrat Margin
2000 3,799,639 2,433,746 1,365,893
2004 4,526,917 2,832,704 1,694,213
2008 4,479,328 3,528,663 950,665
2012 4,569,843 3,308,124 1,261,713
2016 4,685,047 3,877,868 807,179


The most successful Republican candidates keep getting about the same number of votes since 2004 despite the state adding more than 6 million residents.  There is not much variation between Donald Trump (4.68 million), Gregg Abbott (4.64 million in 2018), Mitt Romney (4.57 million), John McCain (4.48 million), and George W. Bush (4.52 million in 2004).  Before 2018, the typical Republican candidate for governor only got 2.7 million votes.

Since 2000, the Democratic vote is growing after decades of stagnation.  Jimmy Carter won Texas in 1976 with 2 million votes which is not much different from Al Gore’s 2.4 million in 2000.  Since 2000, we have John Kerry (2.83 million), Barack Obama (3.3 million to 3.5 million), and Hillary Clinton (3.88 million) slowly gaining on Republican presidential candidate’s 4.5 – 4.6 million votes.  The Democratic gubernatorial candidate typically crashes out with 1.8 – 2 million votes until 2018 when Sheriff Lupe Valdez somehow scored more votes than Barack Obama in 2008 despite running an awful campaign against a strong incumbent.  Regardless of the quality of the Democratic presidential candidate, the Democratic presidential candidate is gaining 90,257 votes per year since the year 2000 which is 361,030 vote per presidential election.

4.5 million votes or Bust

That makes it safe to say that the Democratic nominee for president in 2020, regardless of quality, should get 4.2 million votes in Texas.  That’s not bad since no Democrat reached the 4 million vote mark until Congressman O’Rourke’s 2018 campaign.  But it is not enough to win the presidency.

President Trump could lose votes in Texas compared to 2016, but I doubt he falls below 4.5 million votes.  Due to the unusually high Libertarian vote in 2016, it is hard to predict how much he could lose or gain from 2016.  He could get 4.9 million at most and 4.5 million at the least.  My gut feeling says that he would perform around Gov. Gregg Abbott’s 2018 re-election number of 4.64 million.

Is it hopeless for Democrats?  Below the presidential election are many elections that likely would be winnable with 4.2 million votes such as John Cornyn’s U.S. Senate race in 2020.  A vote that high could lead to 1-2 Republican congressmen losing office and perhaps a lower level statewide office or the Texas House of Representatives.  There are always many reasons to vote besides the national media’s White House obsession.  If trends continue for 6 more years, Texas will definitely be a swing state in 2024.

Issue LXX: Age Polarization and 2020

2 Aug

Did you watch the debate on CNN?  Likely not, as people tune out of the sickening spectacle of two dozen candidates pulling each other down like crabs climbing out of a bucket

Talk of “moderates” and centrists versus “progressives” and socialists and likely turns the audience off no matter how much they may hate the current incumbent in the White House.  But unspoken on cable TV is a concerning trend I have noticed which may affect electoral decision-making far more than the pseudoscientific political babble masquerading as political analysis.  Here’s a dirty secret that has kept popping up when I review election results.

The biggest political divide in the United States is age.


Arizona is now America

This was first noted in Arizona which in many ways prefigures the politics of today.  In 2010, they passed the first anti-immigration legislation at the state level, SB 1070.  Unmentioned of course was the role of the private prison industry.  Private prisons proposed the law to rural politicians as a jobs program.  Undocumented immigrants would be a new population to fill the for-profit prisons.  The prisons would increase jobs but also prop up the population count in the Census to prevent rural areas from losing representation.

As a retirement state and Southwestern state, Arizona has a huge difference between the racial and income profiles of the youth and the elderly.  The youth are poorer and more diverse and overall progressive while elderly (often from out of state) are more Republican, very conservative, and fairly racist and anti-immigrant.  The defining politician of Arizona is this era is not John McCain (R-AZ) but Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Massachusetts-born Italian-American known for breaking civil rights laws and placing prisoners in tents in the desert.  The politics of older and richer white voters wanting to arrest younger and poorer Hispanics makes more sense now.  It just happens to be national now.

Nationally, the age polarization for the youth can be explained by the increased diversity of the under 45 population which has a higher educational attainment, less religiosity, and increased social liberalism. Many in this population are children of immigrants being born after immigration laws were changed after the Civil Rights Movement by the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965.  This polarization also seems to extend to Generation X (born 1965-1980) which is now more liberal than it used to be.

Recent Elections and Guide for the Future

This was not always the case.  As recently as 2000, Democrats banked on older voters for wins in Florida.  But that generation who grew up during the Depression and Franklin Roosevelt has mostly died off.  Older people represent Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) and the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945) who while fairly conservative have become even more so.  This affects how people should think about the “moderate-centrist” versus “progressive-socialist” debate on CNN.

Those over 45 have voted Republican in many elections now regardless of the Democrat or the Republican.  In 2008 and 2012, they voted for John McCain and Mitt Romney not Barack Obama.  Looking at recent national exit polls for U.S. House we see them voting for Republicans 54% in 2014 and 2016.  In last year’s midterm election, the over 45 voted 50%-49% for a Republican for Congress while the youth voted 61% – 36% for the Democrats.  Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House not due to her age group but to the voters half her age and younger.

When you add up all the votes, people over 45 typically represent 60-65% of all voters depending on the state.  The vote of the youth ranges from around 30-35% depending on the state.  This produces some fascinating results that have little to do with ideology of the candidate.  More moderate or “pragmatic” Senate candidates lost the over 45 vote no matter what with numbers that are all pretty similar; North Dakota 44%-56%, Missouri 43%-56%, Indiana 43%-55%, Arizona 46%-53%, Florida 45%-54%, Montana 45%-52%, and Tennessee 36%-62% in 2018.  Meanwhile, the exceptions were significantly to the left of center in 2018.   Sherrod Brown won the over 45 vote 52%-48% in Ohio and Tammy Duckworth 53%-47% in Wisconsin.  That feat was not repeated by the local candidates for governor.

In contrast, the under-45 vote almost uniformly voted Democratic even in uncompetitive races like the Texas governor’s race.   Interestingly, ruby-red Tennessee’s Senate election had former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen win the under-45 vote at a rate higher (61%-38%) than the youthful Beto O’Rourke in Texas (59%-40%).  But what made O’Rourke almost make it to the finish line against Ted Cruz while Bredesen ate a 10-point loss?   Beto O’Rourke drove the share of the 18-44 vote up to 39% of all voters while Bredesen only had 31% of all voters under the age of 45.  He also did slightly better with the over 45 set.  Stacy Abrams came even closer to winning than O’Rourke with 40% of all voters under 45 for a less than 2% loss (notwithstanding some electoral shenanigans).

What is the lesson for all of this?  Regardless of region or ideology, any reasonably competitive election shows that older voters are going to vote Republican no matter how liberal or conservative the Democrat is.  The trick is to more or less forget about winning this age group and focus on building the biggest turnout possible with Generation X, Millennials, and the upcoming Generation Z while reducing the loss amongst the older voters to 8-10 points at best.  The drop in the share of the under 45 vote from 47% of voters in 2008 to 46% of voters in 2012 to 44% of voters in 2016 may have made the difference.

The candidate that will motivate the youth and speak to their issues and problems and the problems of the planet will be best positioned to do win if we desire the removal of President Donald Trump in 2020.