America’s New Political Map
America’s political map is being redrawn by demographics and cultural shifts; not by Donald Trump as some pundits would have us believe.
This new political map will shape how elections turn out and what our government will look like for decades to come. Among other things it will determine which party controls Congress; and what the parties will look like, for much of the 21st Century.
The realignment of the political map is nothing new it happens every few decades. The last big change in the political map occurred in the 1970s and 80s; when the so-called Solid South shifted from Democrat to Republican. Today’s changes are a little more complex but they are just as dramatic.
What the New Political Map will look like
The most obvious features of the new political map will include:
- The Blue West Coast. All three states on the Pacific Coast; California, Oregon and Washington State, will be solid blue Democratic. This development; particularly with California’s population of 38 million, will give the Democrats a massive advantage similar to that they enjoyed from the Solid South of the first six decades of the 20th It also means that California will dominate the Democratic Party, both culturally and financially.
- The West turns Blue. One of the most striking changes underway is the drift of traditionally Republican western states into the Democratic orbit. This year two formerly red-leaning purple states; Colorado and Nevada, have shifted solidly blue. Another Arizona might be on the verge of doing so. If this trend continues, the West will become a largely Democratic region. An interesting development will be that almost the entire Southwest (Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico) might be Democratic.
- The Divided South. The most interesting development this year has been how competitive Southern and Border and states have become. New polls show that is Hillary Clinton is now within striking range of Donald in some Republican-leaning states. A St. Louis Post-Dispatch poll from September 15, showed Clinton ahead by 1.5% in Missouri. Polls showed Clinton within single digits of Trump in the supposedly safe Republican states of Texas, Georgia and South Carolina, Newsweek reported. Polls showed Trump with a lead of three to four points in Georgia on September 17. Trump is also having a hard time in another border state; Virginia, and in Florida. To make matters worse, some polls show Hillary carrying North Carolina. It looks as if the Solid South is history.
- The Solid Blue Northeast. Currently every state from Virginia north to Maine is leaning Democratic. Giving Clinton a block of states rivaling the old Solid South of the 1930s and 1940s. That gives Democrats a massive advantage because they now control both coasts.
- The Red Rustbelt. Trump’s biggest success has been in the Rustbelt; the declining industrial region that extends from Central New England in the East to the upper Mississippi Valley in the West and Appalachia in the South. The factory and mining towns of this region were historically Democratic; largely because of heavily Catholic ethnic populations. Now they lean Republican because of Trump’s economic nationalism. Clinton led Trump by just four points in Michigan according to a September 13, Detroit Free Press Real Clear Politics average of polls that Trump was leading by 1.7 points in Ohio on September 17, 2016. One Rustbelt state; West Virginia, is solidly pro-Trump another Iowa seems poised to follow. This trend is already contributing to dysfunctional politics in some states such as Illinois and Wisconsin, with Republican governors in conflict with Democratic legislatures.
- The Red Heartland. The Republicans continue to dominate around a dozen mostly white and rural states running from West Virginia in the East to Idaho in the West. These low population areas give the GOP a solid Congressional base; but lack the numbers to be a major factor in the Presidential election.
The Map Favors the Democrats
This new electoral map is definitely skewed in favor of the Democrats. Real Clear Politics estimate indicates that the solid blue states possessed 86 Electoral College votes, while the likely Clinton states had 69 Electoral College votes. Meanwhile the solid Trump states have 63 Electoral College votes, and the likely Trump states had 32 on September 17, 2016.
That means Clinton starts the election with advantage of 155 safe Electoral College votes, while Trump only has 95. Things get really bad when one adds the 45 leans Clinton votes to the mix; that gives Clinton 200 of 272 Electoral College votes she needs to win. Even if Trump carries all the 69 leans Trump votes he would still only have 164 votes.
Basically to win, Trump would have to carry several leans Democratic states, something that is increasingly unlikely. With the current numbers Hillary simply needs to get 74 delegates in the tossup states. Trump would have win a large majority of them.
The problem here is population; the Republicans seem to do best in rural states. No high population state is labelled likely Trump and only one high population state – Texas leans Trump. To make matters worse four states with significant electoral votes (Georgia, Arizona, Missouri and North Carolina) that were leaning Trump are now tossups.
The map indicates that the Republicans may no longer have mainstream appeal. A number of demographic trends are making the Republican brand a tough sale in much of the United States. To make matters worse, there is now evidence that Trump seems to be accelerating this shift.
The Trends that are Redrawing the Map
The map is being redrawn by demographic and cultural trends that are changing America. These changes favor the Democratic Party; as it is currently constituted, effectively pull the rug out from under the present-day GOP.
The trends reshaping America’s political map are:
Increasing Urbanization – characterized by the rise of mega cities that dominate entire states or regions. These urban centers attract the people least likely to vote Republican – the college educated, Millennials, agnostics, secularists, immigrants and people of color. Their growth strips the GOP of power by shifting the control of state legislatures to urban areas. That gives the Democrats the ability to redraw Congressional districts (as they have in California and may soon in Colorado, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia) to their favor.
This process began in California, but it is now playing out in states as diverse as Texas, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Examples of the new regional megacities include: Los Angeles, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay area in California, Phoenix in Arizona, Denver in Colorado, Seattle in Washington State, Portland in Oregon, Atlanta in the Mid-South, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin-San Antonio in Texas, Miami, and Tampa-St. Petersburg in Florida, Minneapolis-St. Paul in Minnesota, Chicago in the Midwest, Washington DC in the Mid-Atlantic and New York City and Boston in the Northeast.
This trend is driven by the decline of older urban centers like Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Birmingham, Memphis and New Orleans. A related trend is the growing decline of smaller regional centers; such as Tulsa, Amarillo, Cheyenne, Wichita, Green Bay, Augusta, Albany (New York) and Pueblo, which see their population and influence drained away to the megacities.
It hurts Republicans because the new urban centers draw population and money away from their traditional base in rural areas. Expect the trend to intensify in the near future with continued growth in megacities; and the rise of new megacities such as Las Vegas, Cincinnati, Nashville, Orlando, Jacksonville, Raleigh Durham, Winston Salem, Charlotte, Sacramento and possibly Salt Lake City, Madison (Wisconsin), Omaha, El Paso and Albuquerque/Santa Fe.
A Growing Non-White Population – Currently around 33%; or one third, of the US population is considered nonwhite by the US Census Bureau. This population is growing fast; some estimates indicate a majority of Americans might be nonwhite as early as 2043. Around 49.9% of Americans under five-years old were nonwhite in 2012. In that year the US Census Bureau found that nonwhites made up a majority of those under five-years of age in 25 states and the District of Columbia.
This is obviously problematic for a Republican Party with a majority white base that is increasingly receptive to white nationalist politics. The growth in the nonwhite population; particularly Hispanics, is why formerly Red States like Arizona, North Carolina Georgia and Missouri are now competitive, while some other red-leaning states such as Virginia, Colorado and Nevada are turning blue. It also explains why South Carolina, Utah and Texas, simply lean red.
Growing Secularization – Much of the Republicans’ power in the last three decades came from almost solid support from people of faith particularly evangelicals and Conservative Catholic. Religion is now in decline America, the November 2015 Pew Religion Study found that the share of the US population labeled “Christian” had fallen by nearly 8% dropping from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2015.
At the same time it found that the fastest growing “faith” in the United States was the unaffiliated who increased by 6.7% to 22.8% of the population. That makes the unaffiliated or secular Americans the second largest “faith” in America with 22.8% of the population or 72.7 million people. There were also 22.64 million active secularists (those who described themselves as agnostics or atheists) who made up 7.1% of the population.
Pew also found that there were twice as many atheists in the United States as Mormons. For the record there were 9.89 million atheists and 5.1 million Mormons. America is fast becoming a secular country which explains the rise of a secularist candidate; Donald Trump, in a formerly faith-driven party.
As these trends continue the map will change even more and completely reshape our political landscape. The most likely outcomes will be a stable Democratic majority in control of the Federal Government; and a very different Republican Party possibly pushing a nationalist populist agenda.