Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Some voters are walking

Voters in the USA now back the Democratic Party more than the Republican Party by 7 points, according to the latest poll from Gallup (above). This the biggest lead Democrats have had in two years, leading Gallup to call it “an encouraging sign for the Democratic Party's election prospects in 2018.” Is it?

The poll shows that Democratic affiliation has not grown this year, but Republican affiliation has been dropping steadily. This is "The Trump Effect", because the drop off in Republican support came without an increase in support for Democrats. Clearly, that’s Don's fault: Republicans are running away from their embarrassing president, but they’re not flocking to the alternative.

When Gallup suggests that this is good news for Democrats' chances in 2018, they’re partly right, but it’s not a simple, direct path.

As always, Democrats must 1) get the 45% that supports them to the polls, 2) convince enough Independents to vote for Democratic candidates, and maybe even 3) convince at least some of those disaffected Republicans to punish their own party by voting Democratic.

Because of the drop in Republican affiliation without a corresponding rise in Democratic affiliation, at the moment the poll results show that Democrats best hope is that these disaffected Republicans will simply stay home in 2018. This would actually be a good thing: Because of gerrymandering, Republicans have a manufactured advantage in Congressional elections. If enough Republicans stay home, it could tip the balance in Congressional Districts that Republicans created to ensure they win.

A complicating factor here is that it’s notoriously difficult to get voters to go the polls in Midterm Elections in ordinary years. Without a presidential candidate to rally around, many Democratic affiliated voters stay home, and the lack of the clear focus that a presidential candidate offers may give Republicans no incentive to vote Democratic.

On the other hand, it’s still around 17 months until the 2018 elections, and if the chaos in Washington continues—and if Don remains in office, that’s a sure bet—then over time some of those disaffected Republicans may change party affiliation because of it. Meanwhile, more of them will certainly become disaffected. While some disaffected Republican voters will probably vote Democratic in reaction to the chaos, some will become even more likely to stay home on election day.

At the same time, while Democrats normally have trouble getting their supporters to the polls for a Midterm Election, it will probably be different in 2018 given the strength of the opposition to Don. At the moment, a higher-than-normal turnout of Democratic affiliated voters is probable in 2018, and with enough Independents joining them, they could retake Congress and state legislatures and stop Don in his tracks.

But 17 months is a VERY long time. Don will not go down without a fight, and Republicans will fight back with anything they can find. We can expect to see them try to scaremonger, as the party did successfully in 2002 and 2004, and less successfully 2006, as well as using the sort of propaganda-based distraction campaigns they ran in the run-up to the 2016 elections. If Don triggers a war or incites a major terrorist attack, which is possible, then all bets are off.

But barring a dramatic development or Don leaving office, the path forward is clear. Which is exactly why no one should expect it to remain that way.

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