In my last blog post, I called for us to stop viewing every election as an apocalyptic event and consider the consequences in a realistic way.
How do we do that? One way is to calculate the mathematical consequence of an individual vote. Partisans will guilt their friends with the idea, if they don’t sacrifice their conscience, they’ll be responsible for the election of the worst of the two evils. This is nonsense. The odds of an individual vote swinging a presidential election are infinitesimal. Steven Weese of the Foundation for Economic Education posted a great mathematical analysis on the issue in 2016.
However, mathematical arguments may avail little during the heavily emotional 2020 campaign.
Voters may view themselves not as “individuals” voting for a candidate they believe will do a good job but as part of a grand alliance to save the country from the radical left. The key to defeating this tendency is to be realistic. The first thing reality tells us is the idea of “saving America” by “stopping the Democrats” is a myth.
Whether we like it or not, America is a land of political parity when it comes to Presidential politics. From 1952-2016, the average length of time a political party has held the White House is eight years. The exceptions to this are the four-year run of Jimmy Carter and the twelve-year Reagan-Bush years. The Reagan-Bush success was built on two historic landslides where President Reagan averaged more than 500 electoral votes and 46 states in the 1980 and 1984 elections, a feat we’re unlikely to see again. The most wildly optimistic scenario for a Trump’s re-election is for him to win his 2016 and add New Hampshire and Minnesota, which would leave him at around 320 electoral votes, hardly a foundation for a third GOP term.
Thus, if conservative voters pull the lever for Trump in 2020 and “save America,” they will most likely wake up the morning after Election Day in 2024 to find the Democrats have won back the Oval Office.
The next question is, would a Democratic victory in 2024 be worse than one in 2020 for conservative values and causes? I think it would be. We’ve learned a couple of things about executive power over the course of the last two presidencies. First, Congress has abdicated too much power to the President (such as the ability to unilaterally impose tariffs and declare a trade war.) Second, there’s a limit to what a President can do without a significant legislative majority.
Democrats almost certainly will hold the House after the 2020 elections, but the Senate is another matter. While the GOP holds the majority of seats up, Democrats will have to run the table to win a Senate Majority. Likely, Republicans will still hold the Senate or there will be a narrow Democratic Majority where professed moderates like Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) will hold the balance of power and frustrate the Democrats’ most ambitious goals. In addition, the legislative filibuster will remain in place. So, if Democrats win the White House in 2020, they’ll either be blocked from enacting their agenda or have it severely hampered.
What about if Democrats win in 2024? Democrats will be significantly stronger in Congress. Generally, Presidents lose seats in their second terms and the last two Republican Presidencies don’t portend well for Republican Congressional hopes. President Trump, like Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush, didn’t lose any Senate seats in his first mid-term. Reagan and Bush both lost a significant number of seats during their second term. The GOP lost a total of seven seats in the 1986 and 1988 elections. They lost fourteen seats in the 2006 and 2008 Senate elections.
It’s unlikely Democrats will get sixty seats in the Senate, given Trump’s general unpopularity and his flaws in character. However, Democrats could make significant pickups in the Senate in 2022 and 2024. These could be so significant, they could find the votes to end the filibuster for legislation and ram their agenda through the senate with fifty-one votes, something unlikely to occur should Democrats win in 2020.
Note I’m not trying to make an argument that voting for a Democrat for President is ever a lesser evil. What I’m suggesting is there’s a severe folly in voting for bad candidates to “save America.” I’m suggesting the games people play with their votes make little sense in reality.
Elections do have consequences. However, they also have Newtonian questions. Newton said, for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. It’s as true in politics as it in physics.
For the last six decades, every party has planted the seeds of its own doom and guaranteed the right of the other party.
The historic trends and the facts of the Trump presidency show us that should Democrats lose in 2020, they’ll win in 2024. Further, they’ll win with a more radical nominee than they’re likely to nominate this year and they will gain a congressional majority that will do their bidding.
This is the most likely legacy of a “pragmatic” vote to save the country from the Democrats. If we want to make a truly positive impact, we need to go in a radically different direction.