Sunday, November 29, 2020

Role Reversal

For a good portion of my life the two major political parties had identities that most people understood..

Democrats were the party of the working and middle classes. Democrats were likely to be union families and most were not college-educated. Many lived in factory towns outside of major population centers and that included the small business owners who lived in those same towns. 

Republicans were the party of big business and Wall Street. Republicans were likely to have higher incomes and college degrees. Many Republicans were found in suburban areas near large population centers. Republicans tended to have globalist views and were strongly in favor of expanding international relationships. Most of the nation's elites were Republicans.

These identities made sense as Republicans were considered conservatives which generally means people who are interested in maintaining the existing order or traditions in society without radical change. These voters generally were interested in conserving what they had and the system of government that allowed them to achieve it.

Democrats, on the other hand, were those who generally wanted economic, social and political change and wanted a government that was active in facilitating that change. These voters wanted a system of government that promoted progressive change in order that they could achieve more than they had been able to do previously under the traditional system.

What I have found particularly interesting in observing the evolution of the political parties over the last 40 years is how the voters who identify themselves as Republicans (conservatives) or Democrats (liberals) has completely reversed.

Voters who were Democrats 40 years ago are now Republicans.

Voters who were Republicans are now Democrats.

It is a complete role reversal.

This evolution has been ongoing since 1980 but the emergence of Donald Trump and his transformation of the Republican party has made it apparent to all.

Let's take a look at a few charts to show you what I mean.

This is the county map of the 1980 election between Ronald Reagan (red) and Jimmy Carter (blue).

It was a landslide win for Reagan but it seems almost unfathomable today that a Republican carried almost every county in California (including Los Angeles county by 10 points) as well as New York.

Source: Wikipedia Commons

This is what the map looked like in 1992 between Bill Clinton (blue), George H.W. Bush (red) and Ross Perot (green).

Source: Wikipedia Commons

This is the 2000 map between George W. Bush (red) and Al Gore (blue). You can see how the presence of Democrats in the heartland of the country was starting to recede.

Source: Wikipedia Commons

2008 map between Barack Obama (blue) and John McCain (red) in which Obama won convincingly.

Source: Wikipedia Commons

2016 map between Donald Trump (red) and Joe Biden (blue).

Source: Wikipedia Commons

In 2016, Donald Trump won 2,626 counties to 487 for Hillary Clinton.

Preliminary numbers for 2020 indicate that Joe Biden won just 477 counties.

Obama won 689 counties in 2012. He won 873 in 2008.

Over the years the votes for Democrat presidential candidates have increasingly been concentrated in large population centers and have been centered on the east and west coasts and along the southern border. Most of the heartland votes have disappeared.

This chart shows how the Democrats have increasingly gotten their votes in the 100 largest counties since 1980.

The reliance on the large population centers today is remarkable.

Democrats only carried 30 out of the 100 most populous counties in 1980. They carried 91 out of 100 in 2020.


How can this be explained?

One explanation is the tremendous increase in immigrants into the country beginning in the 1980's of which a large share ended up settling in the country's largest population centers.

Source: Migration Policy Institute

We have also seen a role reversal in college-educated voters moving toward the Democrat party. It also seems to be true that the more time someone spends in school the more likely they will be to vote Democrat. Some argue that this is because those with more education are more "enlightened". However, it actually may have more to do with biases of the education system itself. Colleges spend as much time feeding propaganda to students as they do anything else.

In 1980, 76% of the 100 counties with the largest share of college degrees voted for Ronald Reagan. In 2020, 84% of those counties voted for Democrat Joe Biden.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

How can anyone make the argument anymore that the Democrats are the party of the working class?

You also can see how things have changed between the parties in looking at this chart of how the vote for President has gone over the last 40 years in the 100 counties with the highest median income.

Ronald Reagan captured 91 of these 100 counties in 1980 and 93 of the 100 in 1984.

Joe Biden won 57 of these counties in 2020.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

The Republicans are the party of the rich?

It is not true any longer.

As you can see from these charts, all of these trends have been been ongoing for the last 40 years.

However, the full import and impact and the changes did not come into complete focus until Donald Trump arrived on the scene.

The defining issues that caused a lot of this change to come into better focus were Trump's views on immigration and trade. Trump made it clear that he was not going to allow illegal immigration to be used to undermine the jobs and incomes of those working class Americans who were so badly hurt by this low cost illegal labor. He also made it clear he would renegotiate NAFTA and hold China and other countries to account for the unfair trade practices that had hollowed out much of the nation's manufacturing base over the last 40 years.

What did the Democrats do in reaction to Trump? They took the side of the illegals over what had been their core working class constituency that had sustained the party over many decades. They also got in bed with Wall Street, Big Business and Big Tech in order to fund their campaigns. The transformation was complete. Democrats became a party with two widely separated groups of voters. Rich, urban elites and mostly lower income minorities both living in and around large urban population centers.

That is how a party that was once considered that of Wall Street, big business, the elites, the rich and the globalists became the party of Main Street, small business, the working and middle class and economic nationalism.

Democrats might deny it but the proof is where the votes come from today. The Democrats are not pulling many votes out of the heartland anymore. They seem to lack much empathy for small business owners or those in the working and middle classes. It has become a party of Wall Street, elites in Big Business and Big Tech who seem to care more about how the United States treats the rest of the world that how it treats its own workers and taxpayers.

Little did I ever think I would see such a role reversal in my lifetime.

Donald Trump has revealed it in living color for all to see.

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