If Demographics Are Destiny…..

The most encouraging headline I’ve come across lately was on a Brookings Institution study titled “Trump Owns a Shrinking Republican Party.”

It’s worth remembering the central point of the study when we read that a majority of Republicans remain adamant in their support of Trump–that’s a majority of a smaller and smaller number of voters.

The opening paragraphs of the report confront the puzzle of Trump’s disinterest in what has typically been the first goal of political candidates and parties alike: expanding one’s base.

Most American presidents come into office seeking to expand their support beyond their most loyal voters. But among the many peculiarities of the Trump presidency is his lack of interest in expanding his base, a fact that is even more surprising for someone who lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million and carried his key electoral college states by less than 100,000 votes. The story of Trump and his base has two sides.

The first “side” is what is most often reported: the devotion of Trump’s base. These are the people who would vote for him even if he shot someone in broad daylight on 5th Avenue, as he famously boasted.

Loyalty to Trump among the Republican base is looking so strong that it led Republican Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a Trump critic who is not running again, to tell reporters “It’s becoming a cultish thing, isn’t it?”

Indeed it is.  (As regular readers of this blog know–I have some fairly strong and not at all complimentary opinions about why people join that cult.)

The other “side” of the equation is the continuing erosion of party identification, especially Republican identification.

As the following graph of Gallup polls indicates, both political parties find themselves less popular now than they did in 2004 with a substantial rise in those who identify as independents. For the Democrats, party identification peaked in Obama’s first term and then dropped in his second term. For Republicans, party identification took a sharp drop at the end of George W. Bush’s second term and never really recovered. The trend seems to have taken another drop after Trump’s election.

How can we explain what looks to be a long-term decline for the Republican brand? Age, for one thing. From the beginning of the Trump administration the oldest Americans, those aged 50 and over, have consistently given Trump his highest approval ratings while young people aged 18–29 have consistently given him his lowest approval ratings.

The study concludes–not unreasonably–that a political party unable to attract young people, especially when a generation is as big as the Millennial generation, is not a party with a very bright future.

But it isn’t only young people. We don’t have data–at least, I’m unaware of any–that gives us a handle on the numbers of disaffected “old guard” Republicans, the good-government, civic-minded folks I used to work with, who are horrified by what their party has become. The Steve Schmidts and other high-profile “never Trumpers” are only the tip of that iceberg.

Of course, the GOP establishment is aware of these demographics; those dwindling numbers are the impetus for the party’s constant efforts to rig the system–to gerrymander, impose draconian voter ID requirements, purge registration rolls and generally do whatever they can to suppress turnout.

They know that members of the cult will vote, no matter what. If the rest of us–however numerous– don’t, the current (profoundly unAmerican) iteration of what used to be a Grand Old Party will retain power.

You don’t have to love the Democrats to find that prospect a chilling one.


  1. Excellent points about the demise of the GOP. Sadly, the other Donor owned party has access to the same data and has concluded that being not Trump is good enough, so they slide even further to the right.

    Chomsky has pointed this out numerous times as unions began dwindling in America (by design). Many economists refer to Reaganism and Thatcherism as Neoliberalism. It essentially moved the political spectrum to the right. Our Captains of Industry became untouchable because they owned the media and ruling Elite.

    The parties used to represent the people and then they didn’t. The rising number of independents and non-voters was simply due to a rigged system. Populism rules the day which is why Clinton was the WORST candidate possible for the Dems to run, but it was her turn to be Chief. Dynastic politics.

    So the winner will be who connects with the people. Trump found his niche while the DNC is getting outflanked on the left once again.

    One glaring observation in Sheila’s post today is the Boomer generation mainly gets their news and info from the television while Millennials obtain their news via their phones/internet. I’m in the Boomer generation but at the tail end which is tech savvy. The TV news isn’t worth watching. Those who hoist Maddow and MSNBC up on their shoulders are as delusional as those who watch Fox News.

    Personally, your best bet is turning off the TV and turning on your computer. Learn about Twitter from the library. The one area where the TV is helping is through documentaries which appeal to the younger crowd. I can attest that most of them are not friendly to our existing market systems which are inefficient, nonsustainable and produce poor results for the people they were created to serve.

    We’ve left a flipping mess to our younger crowd. The greed of the Boomers has run its course. The media and the political parties are trying to control the damage, but the more tech-savvy folks see right through the bullshit.

    Why do you think the Koch’s started investing in over 150 colleges across the country, including Ball State University? Whose minds are they wanting to corrupt with “libertarian and Ayn Rand values?”

    By the way, ML hit two home runs yesterday, and once I’m finished with my book on Stoicism, I’ll check out Vernon’s book.

    Nero’s ego was the problem and America is blinded by the same GDP/WAR curse. I’d love to compare Nero to Trump. 😉

  2. I have learned from Facebook that I have many friends that will stand in line for long periods of time for total crap – if it is free… free taco, free pizza, free sandwich. I also have learned that many of my friends don’t vote… because it takes too long, it is too complicated, they don’t “feel” like it matters. I just don’t get it. The voting booth is the one place in this country where the richest or the rich and the poorest of the poor are equal… in that moment, in that small space, everyone is equal yet an ever decreasing percentage of the population takes advantage of this opportunity. Encouraging voters to vote should be our focus. Nothing else matters… tell people to vote and if they start to give an excuse, punch them in the head, and say, ‘pretend there is a fucking free taco in the voting booth!”

  3. Todd Smekens –

    “I’d love to compare Nero to Trump.”

    Interesting read, especially the chapter on criminal psychiatry, causes and effects.

  4. I think what is going on now is mostly a reaction to that scary black man who was in the white house for 8 years. The Republican party became the racist party after the LBJ efforts to help black America–Like the Voting Rights act.
    The Democratic party lost its racists to the Republicans.
    Pres Obama was the final straw for the “R” base.
    They just lost their mind over Pres Obama
    Now we get Trump –
    The bastard child of Benito Mussolini and George Wallace.
    Perhaps when the Trumps are in jail this can start to change.
    I sure hope so

  5. 45 and his ilk in Congress believe that they can continue to maintain control of the masses through voter suppression and media ownership. It just might work for them.

    The Dems don’t have a strong message to grab the Dem voters’ attention. The Ds in Congress seem to be interested in getting the attention of gop voters rather than creating a collective message that would matter to D voters. They all seem to be in it only for themselves and clearly care only about “the people they represent” during re-election time.

    Until the Dems create a strong message that matters to their voters and work to get that message out, they will also continue to lose voters. They need to come up with a strong positive message about what they want to do to help us and use that positive message to drown out the continual damage taking place by the right.

  6. TLentych – demanding that voters just need to get out and vote is a tired old message that needs to be thrown to the trash heap. Many people see no reason to vote because they have no choices at the booth. There are many Ds (I am one of them) who would love to run for a state office, but we find out that it would be a losing battle before we even start. We don’t have the money to fight our way to the top. On the rare occasion when a D does run in my district, they are defeated by out of state money that flows nonstop to keep a R in office.

  7. If Americans have finally woken up to the need stay engaged and the absolute requirement to vote, these years will be worth the pain.

  8. “…But among the many peculiarities of the Trump presidency is his lack of interest in expanding his base, …”

    This statement took me back to around 1975 and a conversation with my 19 year old son Tony; he and my 17 year old son Mark had problems working their way through their teen years as too many did in the 1970’s. He was beginning to work his way through and out of his dilemma and told me, “Mom, I know I don’t have a direction in my life, but Mark doesn’t even know he should have a direction.” Trump doesn’t seem to know he needs a base to continue a political career and he has no direction in his current position in politics. This country would be better served if he…and Pence…were both removed from the White House and the political scene all together. I watched again yesterday as Pence stood mute and blank looking while Trump scrawled his signature on another highly questionable Executive Order which, if later reports are true, appears to have little basis in fact, reality or legality.

    “We don’t have data–at least, I’m unaware of any–that gives us a handle on the numbers of disaffected “old guard” Republicans, the good-government, civic-minded folks I used to work with, who are horrified by what their party has become.”

    As for the demographics in the blog today; I am reminded of what a wise friend told me years ago; “You can find statistics (demographics) to prove any point if you know where to look.”

    “For the Democrats, party identification peaked in Obama’s first term and then dropped in his second term. For Republicans, party identification took a sharp drop at the end of George W. Bush’s second term and never really recovered.”

    If memory serves me; Republican party identification took a sharp upswing in the 2009 election, beginning the overfill of Congress with elected Republicans who began the determined effort to stop “the colored guy” in the White House from making progress. Did the Democrat’s party identification drop during President Obama’s second term because they lost sight of the reason he was not able to keep many of his campaign promises was due to the Republicans who voted and the Democrats who did not? Those Democrats who did not vote in mid-term elections are among the demographics leading to the rapidly escalating chaotic Trump situation which appears to have no “Exit” signs to lead us out of it.

    The bad-mouthing and negative attitude of Democratic voters against the Democratic party in general is “adding insult to injury”. The insults add weight to the injuries of the Republican’s outright lies against the party.

    You also don’t have to love the Democrats to vote for them in November…and turn current demographics around.

  9. TLentych; “I also have learned that many of my friends don’t vote… because it takes too long, it is too complicated, they don’t “feel” like it matters.” After reading this comment from you today I thought of the E-mail from my best friend since 1953 who is a political activist in the San Francisco area and their primary election earlier this month. I have copied and pasted it below; wonder what your friend’s view of voting would be in this process?

    ” Back to super Tuesday, It took me all day to fill out my ballot. We had 27 candidates running for governor. The Greens ran, of course, and the Libertarians and the Peace & Freedom party. The Republicans had 4 or 5 running and Cox got second place, so he runs in the general election next fall. We no longer have a Democrat or Republican ballot, everybody of every party is on one ballot. In San Francisco they went one step further and have a ranked choice ballot. So you name who you’d want if your guy doesn’t win. You get a second choice with your vote. That makes it more democratic, but in CA everyone’s an activist. So there are a lot of choices for every post on the ballot. Problem is the vote is so splintered that a Republican can win — because they only have one candidate for whatever. They all vote for that guy. I voted for Newsome, knowing he is a handsome scoundrel. But he understands climate change is real and I hope he will cancel our contracts with the oil companies. We are actually subsidizing them, just like the feds subsidize them when they don’t need it. So I’m hoping Newsome will stop with the oil companies. Divest of them. Stop the fuckin’ frackin’ in southern CA. “

  10. My reality check has been to look up Trump’s Gallup approval numbers. This week’s approval rating is 45%, tied with the highest number of his presidency, and despite the uproar over the separation of families at the border. That 45% represents pretty much all of the Republicans, plus some.

    My thought is that the only thing that will erode his support is economics. When Trump’s trade war hits the wallets of his supporters, we may see some change in those numbers.


  11. I suppose when the world became hostile to dinosaurs they got bitchy like we are now and probably seemed directionless too as their food became scarce and what used to be easy became hard.

    It’s human’s turn now. We are just not yet adapted to the environment we put ourselves in and apparently are not smart or collaborative enough to adapt culturally. That’s a costly shortcoming.

    The fact that we are unable to adapt doesn’t mean that we get to skip adapting and move right into adapted. It means that we are unable to avoid the trauma that we cause to happen.

    Given all of that we have sentenced ourselves to a painful future and a race to see if the pain motivates us to change fast enough to out pace our dysfunction. We are definitely losing that race now.

    November is a milestone for the US in that race. We’ll either solve a piece of the puzzle or we won’t. I’m still hopeful that enough of us feel the pain now to take a step towards recovery that spares us additional pain in the future.

    I remember waking up in November 2016 to the realization that instead of avoiding that whack in the head we had through a series of unfortunate circumstance invited it in. Now we have a partial do over thanks to democracy.

    I think that our choice between more pain and some hope for less will be as evident this November as that one was.

  12. Nancy… I know it seems like I am blaming marginalized voters for not voting but I am not. I spent considerable time debating people on this and I truly believe that better candidates will emerge if we had a more consistent voter base. Good people just don’t run because they know they can’t count on voters to be there. I know it seems like a chicken and the egg… good candidates get good voters? or good voters get good candidates? To me, voting is a duty and I will always do it… no matter how I feel, no matter what barrier is in front of me… free tacos be damned!

  13. Todd,

    You are NOT the arbiter of the quality of news from ANY organization. If you don’t watch any of it, don’t shoot your mouth off about how bad it is. Your insults to those who DO read and watch real news are foolish, mindless and WRONG!

    Now as far as political parties go, Todd is correct. They have been coopted by corporate/banking America thanks to, among other things, Citizens United v. FEC. Yes, the Democrats screwed the pooch in 2016, but so did the American people, especially the 92 million who didn’t vote. These two things, along with the fascism of Trump will be the demise of democracy, not Todd’s image of the media.

  14. At a meeting yesterday, a lady who claimed to be a flaming liberal recommended that the people in her party should avoid bad-mouthing Trump because it makes the Democrats sound weak and whiney.

    A couple of days earlier, (another group) a Trump supporter felt the Republicans were on the right track because the Democrats did not seem to be very critical.

    People at both meetings sang the praises of the high school kids in Florida … the kids who are actively taking on the NRA and other people who are shooting off their mouths. Let’s hear it for the high schoolers who are on the right track to make things happen.

  15. I’ve lived in several different places and have never found it difficult to vote at any of them. People who say it’s too hard just don’t want to and wouldn’t if you brought the ballot to their home and showed them how to mark it. The only reason the Republicans have done as well as they have in recent years is by cheating–gerrymandering, denying legitimately qualified voters the right to do so, and various rigging and fixing. If they could find a way to disenfranchise me, I’m sure they would, but I would not tolerate it. I’ll continue to vote until they pry the ballot from my cold dead fingers–and maybe not even then!

  16. The question is not whether the Republican Party (especially as now constituted) will win but whether it will survive given the demographics. I have predicted for years that this party if unreformed is destined to descend back into the Whigdom from which it arose, but it may not. It may just go away, as have others.

    Voter suppression and low turnout of its opposition party (with help from Russians, the Kochs, Mercers and the inane holding of Citizens United) are delaying the day of reckoning, but with millions of new voting millennials every election, many of whom are Bernie-loving leftish and activist thinkers, the die is cast even if turnout is poor in view of their activism and turn to the left, a turn perhaps further than I as a slightly left of center voter would like to go.

    Younger voters are tired of Republican excuses (trickledown, tax giveaways etc.) for enrichment of the already rich at the expense of the rest of us, and I agree with them. They rightly see that government is not the problem but rather the brigands who are running it under the pretext that what they are doing and not doing is in the public interest.

    It is no accident that government is trusted in a poll for “happiest nations” and that the government-trusting nations of Sweden, Norway and Denmark are among the top five, none of which is surprising, but Republicans have done a good job here in poisoning the atmosphere that government is bad and Wall Street is good as officially set forth by Reagan’s announcement years ago that “government is the problem” while simultaneously using the power of government to fire air controllers and bust unions.

    Republicans took that ball and ran with it (see the subsequent flurry of Koch-inspired “right to work” laws at state levels), but not because they really thought that government in the abstract was “bad.” The design was to put government down so that their campaign contributors could steal the peoples’ trove via privatization, following the lead of Putin, a communist, who is successfully pretending to favor a private enterprise system so that he and his oligarchs can steal the Russian people blind.

    The good news is that political transformation is coming, assuming we survive the democracy and budget-busting antics of the current administration. Our political D-Day is coming this November, and we are well-advised to storm the beaches (aka polls) and install non-brigands who will increase our measurable happiness index by governing so well that the new consensus will be that “government is good,” and perhaps even that government service is, as Madison and Jefferson saw it, “noble,” which I think all would agree would amount to a considerable transformation from present sentiment in re “politicians,” i.e., from loathing to admiration.

  17. Demographics will potentially destroy the military industrial economy of the last 60 years. It is unsustainable in purpose, social impact, economic impact and population of military age citizens. All of which matters naught if, regardless of turn out, computer voting is rigged and without paper trail. 2000, 2004, 2016, need that aspect investigated.

  18. Todd, I happen to agree with you about – “The TV news isn’t worth watching.” MSDNC, CNN and FOX only present stories that support their respective narratives. The conclusion of the story is selected then the talking head hosts trot out a series of hacks to provide support their narrative.

    If any elected officials are trotted out they are selected to reinforce the narrative.

    A Gallup Poll offers some numbers >>> Satisfaction With U.S. Direction Reaches 12-Year High
    Satisfaction rate of 38% is highest since September 2005. Second month in a row above 35%, also for the first time since 2005. Satisfaction rises among Republicans and independents, not among Democrats.

    U.S. satisfaction has averaged 38% in May and June after averaging 29% in March and April. The nine-percentage-point bump between the two periods is entirely owing to increased satisfaction among Republicans and independents, pushing Republicans’ satisfaction to 68% and independents’ to 36%. Meanwhile, Democrats’ satisfaction is unchanged at 13%.
    How this trending satisfaction translates into any effects on the November election, will remain to be seen. The satisfaction rate was 26% in 2017.

  19. I enjoy voting and will enjoy it more than ever on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. I’ll proudly cast my ballot and walk away from the polls satisfied that I have performed my civic duty.
    My objective couldn’t be simpler: I want to reduce the Republican majority in both houses of Congress as a first step. I must do my part with my one-person vote and must not dilute its effectiveness to that end, to send the GOP packing and take the juice out of that Chubby Orange Windbag who keeps making the stupidest mistakes due to stubborn self-righteous listening only to the most evil critters in his unbalanced head.
    By selecting the DEMOCRAT PARTY STRAIGHT TICKET I will have done my duty without the need to agonize over the various positions of each candidate. It’ll take only a split second; it will be an undiluted vote that will reject GOPs and third party candidates (who can and will rejoin the fracas in 2020). My vote may help to clean the cobwebs out of some held-too-long offices hopefully term-limiting them.
    If that still sounds too difficult, one of the poll attendants will help you FOR FREE! As a bonus, you will awaken Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Ind) who will be re-elected to do his duty as a Democrat, to help save our Democracy from the totalitarianism you saw crushing the “babies of tender age”.

  20. “The opening paragraphs of the report confront the puzzle of Trump’s disinterest in what has typically been the first goal of political candidates and parties alike: expanding one’s base.” And two reasons are offered for why Trump plays it that way.

    I SEE A THIRD REASON, which is imminently more dangerous.
    Trump already has in place the key elements of a coup, and every day he reinforces their “willingness” to support whatever he does.

    1) Awaiting his move, Trump has a sizable street army (20 million to 40 million) that is dumb enough and brutal enough and armed enough to engage in all the Brownshirt tactics to cower the other 300 million of us.

    2) Awaiting his move, Trump has found military generals who will support his takeover and placed them in strategic offices to be instant leaders of his coup.

    3) Awaiting his move, Trump has an eager media/press corp eager to bury us in propaganda.

    4) Awaiting his move, Trump has a few hundred thousand military personnel, whom he has fawned and bribed with raises and new killer toys, cooked into a mindset which will erupt in support of Trump’s coup.

    That is all he needs…well, not quite: he needs a trigger, some event that he can use as an excuse to launch the coup. To be effective, the trigger needs to be something that will appear to his deplorable street army as a threat to their country. The trigger is obvious — impeachment.

    As to expanding his base: there is no need to please any of the rest of us, not when at coup-time his Brownshirts are all he needs to MAKE us behave.

    I recommend that we cease writing to our representatives in Congress and begin a flood of letters to every one of the highest ranking generals. They need to know that we are aware of the crucial part they will play when the coup is initiated. The generals are all that stand between the citizens of the United States and Dictator Idi a-Trump. Generals are more easily persuaded by reason than are Representatives and Senators. Generals have a healthy respect for truth and logic. Almost all generals are men and women of honor. Knowing that, Trump may have made some mistakes in whom he placed in top positions of the military and in generals elevated to positions in the White House. It is important that a number of them be reminded of the threat a coup would be to their honor and an abdication of their duty to the Constitution. And that we, and history, are watching.

  21. Demographics is part of the reason for the shrinking Republican Party; ideological drift is the other. If we listen to the “mainstream media”, including MSNBC, America is POLARIZED. There are the “conservatives”, who love Trump and the “radical left” who believe in the New Deal.

    This is pure balderdash, which is why the Republicans have lost people as they have moved into being a party of reactionaries and even anti-democratic lovers of racist “strong men”.

    The Democrats have failed by trying to follow the Republicans to the right. If Trump only tries to please his base, both Clinton and Obama tried to please everybody but their base.

    Nancy – I started my political activism a million years ago in Detroit where our group opposed the UAW slated candidate (pro-union, not so good on civil rights or equal rights). We lost the election — but we won the war. Four years later the UAW endorsed a candidate that we preferred and told their previous choice to retire.

    I also didn’t run for Council with the idea that I would necessarily win. I didn’t raise the money I was told to and ran a low-budget grass roots campaign. I didn’t win, but I got more votes in my district than the mayoral candidate did. I ran to demonstrate the power of a pure grass roots campaign and to encourage others. The party “regulars” were impressed. You don’t always win, but you keep trying. Eventually ….

    “A Hole in the Head” was on TV recently. I always liked that movie and the song, High Hopes. That is my view of political activism — “Oops there goes another rubber tree plant”.
    I met five good congressional candidates at the State Convention. I wouldn’t be surprised if two or even three replaced the Republican incumbent. High Hopes.

  22. Once again, you guys are fun to read no matter what topic Sheila throws out for us. My only response is to vote and get all your friends to vote for the Democrats in November.n

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