January 18, 2018

Swing States vs. Slide States in the 2016 Election

In an election year, there tends to be a lot of talk about so-called “battleground states,” which are also commonly referred to as “swing states.” The implication of the term “swing state” is that it could vote either way(R or D) because it doesn’t have a solid majority from either party. True swing states seem to be New Hampshire, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, and maybe Colorado .

However, you will find that most states that are in play in 2016 are not simply naturally occurring tossups, but actually are what would better be termed “Slide States.” These are states were at one point safely republican but are now gradually becoming unwinnable for them due to demographic changes. In this election the slide states to look out for may include: Virginia(which Obama won twice), North Carolina(which Obama won in 2008), Arizona, and Georgia. I say Georgia and Arizona because they are near a tipping point demographically and will be among the next states with a white minority. 270towin lists them as likely republican, but that’s assuming a traditional republican candidate. If the election is Trump vs Clinton, these states are much more likely to be in play, as Trump has record low unfavorability among Hispanics. Still, every state is currently trending less white every year, so if Trump can’t win in 2016, then Generic Republican Candidate probably cant win in 2020 anyways.

The original slide state was California. In 1980, Reagan easily won the state, which at the time had a comfortable white majority. Of course, today the idea of a republican presidential candidate winning California is laughable. Some time in the middle of 2015, California’s hispanic population officially surpassed its white population. To put it bluntly, since the republican party is almost entirely white, the obvious result of a state that doesn’t even have a white PLURALITY, nevermind a majority, is permanent democrat rule.

Of course, just because all Republicans are white doesn’t mean that all whites are Republican. The very white states that comprise New England(except New Hampshire), as well as a few in the Upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest are pretty safely in Democratic hands. The real bread and butter of the Republican coalition is non-college-educated-whites. It’s not that these are the only republican voters, but they are the largest chunk of its coalition. These people make up about ~33 percent of the electorate, and voted for Mitt Romney 62 percent to 36 percent in 2012. The problem of this main demographic of Republicans is that it is generally dying. This chart, provided by The Atlantic, demonstrates that while whites worldwide, and nonwhites in America have all dramatically reduced their rates of death among middle aged people, American whites have INCREASED their mortality rates since the mid-1990s.


What is even more startling is the causes of deaths: suicides, drug overdoses and alcoholism are the primary causes of this trend. Without getting too into it, the career prospects of this age/race group has been decimated by immigration and trade policies of the past 25 or so years, leaving them without income or a sense of purpose. These people aren’t dying from starvation or disease, they’re dying of hopelessness.

As this is happening, large numbers of Hispanics, as well as college educated white millennials move into red states to replace these dying older whites and turn their states blue. Austin, TX is a small example of this: being near the border it has a large Mexican population, and it has garnered a reputation as a hip artsy city, which attracts young whites, who are less conservative than their parents on average(though still more conservative than their nonwhite peers). Colorado is another state that is a longshot for Trump and/or the republicans for the same reasons. This all contributes to the slide. If nothing changes, by 2024 Texas will be a swing state, and Arizona won’t be(because it’ll be solidly democratic).

Now, you might be reading this and wondering how republicans can win at all when the country has become so diverse. Looking at the above map and considering that the white vote averages about 40% Democrat, it seems like the whole country should already be nonviable for Republicans. Within the answer to this question lies the answer to how Republicans can win moving forward(hint: it’s Trump).

Firstly: whites have a greater share of the electorate than of the total population. Senior citizens, who are more likely to vote Republican, and more likely to vote at all, are nearly 90% white. As a general rule, the younger the generation you’re looking at in America, the less white it will be. The median age for Hispanics is 27 years while the median age for the U.S. population is 37 years. Since nonwhite populations skew much younger than whites, much less of them are even old enough to vote.

Second: The white vote is not consistent across the states. To quote Ann Coulter, “The national white vote is irrelevant. Presidential elections are won by winning states. […] Excluding third parties and breaking it down to a two-man race, Mitt Romney won 88 percent of the white vote in Mississippi, but only 40 percent of the white vote in Massachusetts. What sense does it make to talk about his national percentage of the white vote with disparities like that?” This New York Times article talks about how states on the tipping point of a white minority have more racially polarized voting patterns.

270towin.com is a nifty website where you decide which states will be won by which party and see how that translates into votes in the electoral college.The first thing you’ll probably notice is that most of the map is already colored in. The majority of states are pretty safely in the hands of one of two parties. The next thing to take note of is that democrats start with 36 more votes than the republicans. That’s a lot. From this starting point, they literally only need to win Florida, Ohio, and Nevada to win by a hair.

Assume the race is Trump vs Clinton. Assume that Trump pivots to the center(but not too far), and repairs his reputation and becomes less unfavorable among whites. Assume that Hispanics continue to hate him. Assume that turnout for all groups is high, but black turnout isn’t relatively high because there isn’t a black man running, and that Trump performs about as well with blacks as any other republican. Say goodbye to the Reagan coalition, and say hello to the Trump coalition:

Is it doable? Maybe, maybe not. But no other republican but Trump can do it. Are there any states Mitt Romney didn’t win that Ted Cruz could? Trump has a unique appeal because he isn’t a mainline republican. He opposes free trade, he opposes constant military intervention, and is moderate on LGBT issues. If there is anybody who can flip rust belt states, it’s Trump, and only Trump. I mean, maybe it’s already too late, and any republican, Trump or not, can never win again. But if there is a shot, it’s in Trump, and it’s in getting that sweet, sweet white vote. If Trump can turn out the white vote in the rust belt, the Hispanic vote won’t matter, seeing as it is mostly concentrated in states that are either already unwinnable(CA, NY), or that are small and less likely to be as important(NM, CO). But if Trump can’t win Georgia or North Carolina in 2016, than no republican can win them in 2020, and it’s already too late.

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