Besides the constant beatdown by all things Trump over the previous four years by the media, what the hell happened between 2016 and 2020 with the electorate? Why did enough people in enough states choose a senile old white man who campaigned from a cellar in Delaware?
One of the biggest winners in 2016, besides Trump, was columnist Samuel Francis who predicted the rise of “Middle American Radicals.” These were the working class, largely white voters who felt dispossessed by the establishment GOP, and globalists. The Wikipedia page on Francis describes him as “…one of the far-right’s higher-caliber intellectuals,” while the Southern Poverty Law Center calls him a “white nationalist.” Leaving the slurs aside, he made some important points.
For decades, the GOP has been talking about expanding their voter base by taking in more minority voters. This is a noble effort and according to many exit polls seems to have worked in 2020. However, is it possible that the Trump campaign misjudged those Middle American (white) Radicals this time around? The proof may be in the numbers.
In 2016, overall Trump took 8% of the overall black vote while in 2020 he took…8% of the black vote. In 2016, blacks accounted for 12% of the electorate while in 2020 they accounted for 11% of the electorate. Let’s do the math: in 2020, if these exit polls are correct, a little over 17 million blacks voted, with Trump getting 1.371 million votes. In 2016, blacks accounted for 16.457 million of the electorate with Trump getting 1.316 million votes from blacks, or an additional 55,000 of over 155 million votes nationally in 2020. Yes- he got more raw votes than previously because more people voted in 2020 than in 2016, but an additional 55,000 votes spread across 50 states is not going to make a difference.
With Hispanics, Trump did increase his vote totals from 28% support in 2016 to 35% support in 2020. But, like the black electorate which showed a decrease in their proportion in the electorate from 12 to 11% of the total, Hispanics as a percentage of the overall electorate also showed a decline from 11% to 9%.
Now let’s turn to the white vote. In 2016, whites accounted for 71% of the electorate and 74% in 2020. In 2016, Trump garnered 57% of the white vote and 55% in 2020. That 2 percentage point difference may not look like much but consider that in 2016, 4.6% of the vote went to third party candidates with most of those voters being white while in 2020 only 2% of the vote went to third party candidates.
We can delve deeper into the white vote since it was predicted that white women would turn against Trump, especially white suburban women. That was not the case since Trump matched his 2016 support among white women compared to 2020 at 52%, but white women were a larger slice of the 2020 electorate than in 2016 (39% vs. 37%).
White men also represented a larger slice of the electorate at 36% in 2020 versus 34% in 2016. But the Trump vote declined from 62% in 2016 to 59% in 2020. Since we are looking at the possibility of the white working class male costing Trump the election, it pays to look at that demographic also. Among college-educated white males, Trump held his own with a small dip from 48% to 46%. But among those without a college degree, in 2016 Trump ran away with this vote at 71% but declined to 64% in 2020.
It is estimated that if Trump replicated his 2016 vote among working class whites without a college degree, he would have increased his national vote total by 1.33%. The national popular vote is one thing, but what about the competitive states? If Trump had equalled his 2016 vote among this specific demographic, it would have been close in Arizona with a victory and Georgia (probably not a victory), but he would have won Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Instead of plotting legal strategy, he would be plotting a second term.
In a previous article regarding Ohio, I compared Trump’s performance in industrial and poor counties against previous Republican candidates. That was an intra-party comparison. However, Michigan is a better indication of inter-party comparisons. In the western part of that state and even in the upper peninsula, Trump lost ground compared to 2016 while Biden outperformed Clinton. These counties are largely rural and white working class. A perfect example is Kent county, the home of Grand Rapids. In 2016, Trump won the county by more than 3 percentage points, but lost by 6 points in 2020. And although he won Macomb county (the home of Reagan Democrats), his margin of victory declined from over 11% to 8%.
Pennsylvania is another laboratory of this hypothesized dynamic. Philadelphia and its collar counties decided the state for Biden. Even still, there was an upswing of Trump votes in Philadelphia. Instead, look outside that area to see where the problem (other than outright fraud) were troublesome. In five key counties- all white majority- (Lancaster, York, Butler, Cumberland, and Westmoreland)- Trump saw declines ranging from 3.1% to 6.8%.
In 2020 throughout the country, Trump matched or exceeded his 2016 performance across all demographics but one- white working class males. Large, systemic fraud may be one proffered reason, but the trend is seen across multiple jurisdictions. So the biggest question- outside widespread systemic fraud- is why?
Did voters tire of Trump? Were they exhausted from the drama of the previous four years? Were white voters turned off because they felt somewhat ignored by the man in whom they placed their trust and votes in 2016? Was it the Wuhan flu and the constant attacks on Trump’s handling of it? Or was it because except in places like the rally in Butler county that drew 60,000 spectators, Trump abandoned a populist, nationalist economic message?
Perhaps, that despite the fact the GOP held the House, Senate and White House in the first two years of his administration, an opportunity was missed to set that populist economic agenda. Admittedly, there was obstruction and resistance, even from those in the GOP. He did not tame the law enforcement and national security bureaucracies (the home of the odious aspects of the Deep State) and they actually dominated his presidency. He, for whatever reason and upon whose advice, surrounded himself with people who actively subverted his agenda.
Despite it all, there were accomplishments. There was record low unemployment and inflation. Wage growth was very real to the working class. We were entangled in no new foreign wars and began withdrawing troops from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan despite the neocons that occupied the halls of the Pentagon. New trade deals were hammered out with Mexico and Canada while tariffs made China take notice there was a new sheriff in the White House.
All these gains were shoved to the back pages because of a virus that terrified millions, killed thousands, and drove a hot economy over the cliff. However, it could also be interpreted as an opportunity missed.
The events of the seven months leading to the election of 2020 could have been used to create a populist and nationalist counter-reaction to the economic calamity, Democrat fascism in states like Michigan, and racial unrest and rioting in the streets. If there was a message, it was not getting through and being drowned out by the Biden enablers in the media. Instead of reporting on the substance of those rallies, reporters were more concerned counting the number of people without masks.
In the end, there was little wrong with Donald Trump. He lost in 2020 and that maybe could have been avoided by being more Trump. Some will argue that Trump did not abandon his 2016 agenda, only that it got sidetracked by the virus and a compliant media in the bag for Biden. One wonders what would have been the result if Trump upped the populism, the nationalism, the call for law and order, highlighting the plight of working class whites and rural America, and religious liberty. In short, more pandering to the people who put you in office in the first place.
Middle America watched the riots in the streets and wanted a stronger response. Instead, they got touting a prison reform bill and concentrating on Biden’s 1994 Crime Bill. Empty threats were leveled against Big Tech like Twitter. Instead of rolling back birthright citizenship, addressing the opioid crisis which is wracking many areas, and speaking to the anxieties of the white working class, we heard of historic employment gains for blacks and Hispanics.
Economic nationalism with a dash of populism is the formula that can cobble together a winning coalition of disparate demographic groups. The “big tent” philosophy and strategy is all well and good provided you do not seemingly forget those already in the tent. In 2020, the Trump base, statistically, remained strong despite everything thrown at the man. Unfortunately, just enough of that base may have cost Trump the 2020 election.
One caveat: massive electoral fraud, for which there is a prima facie case, is not accounted for in this analysis.