The 2020 Election Is A Culture War

The good news in the House is that the Republicans are three seats better off than the Democrats were just before the election, needing only 26 to regain control.

I was dead on in my prediction that this would be a very close “edge” election with by “up to 40” House and/or Senate races were decided by under two points.  The final number of House seats alone decided by under three points was 23, and (so far) approximately 18 were decided by under two. Add in the Arizona and Florida senate races, the Florida and Georgia governor’s races, and all the races still “collecting ballots” and it may well approach 40 before we are done.

Some races had nothing to do with “fraud,” including Arizona’s senate race. There, Krysten Sinema ran at Democrat turnout levels in almost every Democrat district, but ran ahead of those levels in GOP precincts. Martha McSally, shockingly, ran below normal GOP ranges in every single Republican precinct. That ain’t fraud. That’s a bad candidate with no message.

Worse, word is that Governor Doug Ducey, who won comfortably (again, refuting the notion of fraud), will name her to Jon Kyl’s seat when he steps down, meaning we will have a weak candidate in the Flake seat once again. Let’s pray Jon Kyl stays til 2022.

But here is the most shocking statistic of the 2018 elections: setting aside Democrat vote-ponds of California, New York, and Massachusetts, in 17 key races that would have tipped the balance, Democrats won by a total—in ALL races—of just 54,500 votes.

Remember that despite the substantial electoral college advantage Donald Trump got (which should have been bigger and included both New Hampshire and Minnesota but for the “Axis Hollywood” tape), the margin of victory in the 2016 election was a mere 70,000 votes! Adjusted for turnout, this is pretty close to the 2018 result and tells us a great deal about America right now.

Again, putting aside the whackadoodle states of California, New York, and Massachusetts, the nation’s elections are turning on a tiny handful of voters—and not all in one place. Republican incumbents lost in Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Utah, and had Republican-held seats flip in New Mexico and Arizona. Mark Harris’s seat in North Carolina is undergoing a recount right now.

For Republicans, that is actually good news. Their “flip” margin may be as low as 55,000 voters in a dozen states—literally a few voters per precinct.

While this may seem strange or unbelievable, in fact it is quite normal for some periods in American politics, the most noted being the late 1800s. After 1872, the Democrats had managed to shake off the label of “traitors” and had rebuilt themselves. It didn’t hurt that one of the major issues in the country was money—not the economy, but literally money. “There’s no money in Kansas” was the cry, and by that people meant literally they could not get currency. The National Bank Act had restricted the printing of money to National Banks (banks who were chartered by the federal government). Prior to 1863, any state-chartered bank could print its own money. (Did you know that there actually was something called a “$3 bill”—and that it was entirely legit, printed by the Bank of Sheboygan in Wisconsin? These private bank notes were backed by gold. After the Civil War, however, they were driven out of circulation by a tax so that only the U.S. government could print money (“United
States Notes” or “National Bank Notes” for example).

What does that have to do with our elections three weeks ago? Well, as today, a handful of key issues divided Americans, and as the memories of the Civil War faded a bit, people voted on other things.

Ultimately, the public was divided about 50/50 on the “money issue” meaning that other voting issues provided the tipping point. And those other issues, then as now, came down to “middle America.” In the cities, the working groups and immigrants voted with the Democrats, the upper middle class, businesses, veterans, and Unionists with the Republicans. So they canceled each other out.

In the midwest, however, elections turned both on the farm economy and on perceptions of piety and goodness. Specifically, groups of Lutherans (“Pietists”) and Catholics (“liturgicals”) swung the votes of the nation based on their religious outlook—not race, class or any of the Marxist drivel. Historian Paul Kleppner in his famous 1970 book The Class of Culture often sounded like Michael Barone on election night, citing specific precincts or districts whose vote could be predicted based on the numbers of “pietists” or “liturgicals” who lived there.

These elections were very close at times. The election of 1877—prior to 2000, the closest election in American history, saw Samuel Tilden win the popular vote by a whopping 3% more than Rutherford B. Hayes, but lose the electoral college by a single (disputed) vote. (Hillary Clinton’s popular vote margin was only 2.2%) Then, as now, there were charges of fraud. Republicans—more the cutthroat kind than the milquetoast brand that handles election supervision today—challenged the Democrat victories in three states, Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana (all part of the original Confederacy) and formed a committee to examine the votes. Republicans had a 1-vote majority on the committee, and carefully ensured that no one on the committee was a Jeff Flake or John McCain. All three states’ electoral votes went to Hayes, the Republican.

By the way, in case you’re interested, no the Hayes-Tilden election was nowhere close to a record for the gap between the popular vote winner and the electoral vote winner. That would be the election of 1824 when Andrew Jackson won the popular vote by 10.5 points over the electoral vote winner, John Quincy Adams!

Anyway, back to our “cross of culture.” It is absolutely critical that the Republican Party find out what the voting issues were for those 54,500 voters. While no doubt immigration was one, it wasn’t the only one: healthcare, in the blue northeastern states the SALT tax; trade issues; and, in Florida especially, school choice.  Republicans may very well find that in 2020 they must appeal to their own brand of “pietists” or “liturgicals,” and they better know which is which.


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