Republicans need to be very careful because their party is moving in directions could guarantee electoral defeat in 2020.
In particular, I see several ominous trends towards disastrous political strategies that are gaining popularity. Conversely, I do not think Republican leaders nor President Donald J. Trump (R-New York) subscribe to this faulty thinking.
However, these notions are popular and could prompt some disastrous moves by rank-and-file Republicans. Moreover, I think they base some of these strategies on wishful thinking that could do more harm than good.
Five Sure Paths to Republican Electoral Defeat in 2020
One: over dependence on Donald J. Trump
Yes, Trump is a proven vote getter who achieved an extraordinary victory in 2020. However, Trump’s popularity is not rubbing off on other Republicans. Notably, the Republican lost the US House of Representatives in 2018 despite extensive campaigning by Trump.
If Republicans want to win in 2020, they will need Trump alternatives and a lot of hard work. Hoping Trump can attract enough votes to restore the Congressional majority is wishful thinking.
Something else for Republicans to consider is Trump’s sudden departure from the campaign. The Donald is only human, and he is 73 years old. What do Republicans do if Trump’s health suddenly fails?
I do not think there is any living Republican who can match Trump’s popularity or media appeal. Thus, Donald’s absence from the campaign trail for even a few weeks could cost the Grand Old Party (GOP) dearly.
Remember, Democrats lost in 2016, partially because of Hillary R. Clinton’s (D-New York) refusal to campaign in certain states. Moreover, Clinton’s pneumonia attack in September 2016 probably fatally damaged her campaign, The New York Times speculates.
Thus, the GOP needs to a strategy for Trump’s absence from the campaign. In particular, I do not think there is another Republican politician who can match Trump’s star power. Without the Donald’s star power, Republicans could suffer at the polls.
Two: Disrespecting or ignoring Trump voters
Many Americans took serious risks by voting for Trump. Mockery, disrespect, contempt, and ridicule are among the prices many Trump supporters pay every day.
If those supporters feel the Republican establishment is disrespecting them, they will turn on it. Trump supporters could vote Democrat, stay away from the polls, or vote for third-party candidates.
One big problem for Republicans could be a Trump-style populist running for president on a third-party ticket. Such a candidate could divert the Donald’s attention from the Democrat.
Finally, Trump supporters could vote for their hero but cast ballots for Democrats in other races. This happened in Montana in 2016. To explain, Trump carried Montana but the state’s voters elected Democrat Steve Bullock governor.
Under these circumstances, President Trump with a Democratic Congress in 2021, is a possibility we need to consider.
Three: Depending on cultural issues like wokeness, political correctness, and social justice warriors
There is a popular theory, spread by pundits like Rod Dreher, that left-wing cultural extremism is driving large numbers of voters to Trump. To clarify, Dreher’s belief is that bizarre leftist policies on things like transexual toilet use and drag queen story hour will drive large numbers of moderates to back Trump.
However, I see no evidence of widespread interest in; or even curiosity about, such matters. Plus, I think those who care about such issues are already in the Trump camp.
Moreover, I think Trump’s big appeal in 2016 was his willingness to discuss economic issues and ignore culture. In particular, the Donald’s willingness to discuss job losses and embrace protectionism.
Working-class people voted for Trump in 2016, because he promised to bring the jobs back, not because the Donald opposed transexual toilet use and gay marriage. Indeed, Trump refused to talk about such issues and attracted some gay support.
I predict Republicans who talk about the drag queen story hour when the Federal Reserve estimates 39% of Americans don’t have $400 in the bank will lose. People who worry about not having enough money to buy food or pay the rent will tune out politicians who talk about abortion and drag queens.
Focusing on cultural issues could be fatal because Trump will probably face a Democrat like U.S. Senator Liz Warren (D-Massachusetts) next year. Warren’s campaign has a laser-like focus on economic issues. In fact, Warren talks and writes about nothing but economic issues, like U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and she’s rising fast in the polls.
If cultural issues have such wide appeal why isn’t a Christian like Dr. Ben Carson president? Tellingly, Carson dropped out of the 2016 Republican primary because he could not compete with Trump.
Four: Hoping the Secret White Silent Majority will come out for Trump
There is a fantasy that there is a secret silent majority of white voters in America who can give Trump a super majority like Richard M. Nixon (R-California) enjoyed in 1972.
Demographics, however, show the White Super Majority no longer exists. Trump received 58% of the white vote in 2016, the BBC estimates. Yet the Donald still lost the popular vote by 2.9 million, or 46.1% to 48.2%, CNN Politics calculates. Moreover, Hillary R. Clinton (D-New York) won a clear popular majority with just 37% of the white vote, the BBC notes.
In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney (R-Massachusetts) won 59% of the white vote; more than Trump, and lost the presidency, The Roper Center estimates. However, Romney was challenging a popular Democrat President Barack Obama (D-Illinois).
Interestingly, Obama received just 39% of the white vote in 2012, or 2% more than Hillary. Thus all Democrats need to do to win is to increase their share of the white vote by 2%. Something that will be easy with a President, whom FiveThirtyEight estimates has a 53.5% disapproval rating.
Under these circumstances, Republicans could attract more votes by appealing to nonwhite voters. Hispanics in particular, in 2012 27% of Hispanics backed Romney, Roper estimates. However, in 2016 29% of Hispanics voted Trump despite the Donald’s well publicized anti-Mexican bigotry, the BBC calculates.
Consequently, being a little nicer to Hispanics, or studying Spanish, could pay off for Republicans in in 2020. In addition, Trump bigotry or focus on the wall could doom Republicans next year.
Five: Thinking Trump will win because of his incumbency
Popular mythology claims history proves incumbent presidents always win. The reality, however, is mixed.
In the last 43 years (since 1976) incumbents lost three of 11 presidential elections. Conversely, no incumbent has lost a 21st Century election. On the other hand, we have had only two 21st century presidential elections; 2004 and 2012, with incumbents on the ballot.
In the last 43 years (since 1976) incumbents lost three of 11 presidential elections. Conversely, no incumbent president has lost a 21st Century election. On the other hand, we have had only two 21st century presidential elections; 2004 and 2012, with incumbents on the ballot.
Historically, there have been periods in which incumbency was a liability at the polls. For instance, no president served over one-term between 1832 and 1864. In fact, no sitting president won his party’s presidential nomination between 1840 and 1860.
In addition, only two sitting presidents; Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant (R-Illinois), won reelection in the 60-year period between 1836 and 1896. Although one president; Grover Cleveland (D-New York), served two nonconsecutive terms in that era. Additionally, voters reelected the winner of the 1896 contest William McKinley (R-Ohio) in 1900.
Obviously, that was a long time ago, but it is something to think about. There have been periods in our history, where incumbency did not guarantee reelection. Notably, we are in a new century and what looks like a new era for American politics.
Therefore, Republicans need to be careful next year. There are many ways Trump can lose.