By Charlie Johnston
Whenever there is a sudden paradigm shift in electoral patterns – something that goes dramatically contrary to previous patterns – you need to determine whether it is a fluke or a real shift. If it is merely a fluke, you can safely return to traditional analytical models. If it is a genuine shift, you need to update your analytical basis to take it into account in future planning. That is a lot easier said than done. You always have a transition period when, though you are not flying blind, you are flying with Vaseline smeared all over your goggles. If it is what I call a “black swan” event, one which turns previous modeling assumptions upside down – and represents a huge break from traditional patterns, you need to focus intently on all the factors involved to develop a plan for future election cycles.
In unstable times of great turmoil, black swan events become significantly more common. In 2016, America elected the first man in its history who had never held elected office or served as a high-ranking military man. In 2018, across the country, suburban areas suddenly flipped from Republican enclaves to Democrat enclaves – and for the first time since such things were recorded, suburban men voted majority Democrat (though by a razor thin margin). Both of these cycles were black swan events. These were the first genuine electoral black swans, in my estimation, since black voters in the early 1930’s, over a couple of election cycles, dramatically switched from overwhelming Republican loyalty to overwhelming Democrat loyalty.
In 2018 I was intimately involved in a smattering of state legislative races in Texas. I thought we would either sweep the seven races I was quietly involved with or go six for seven. To my dismayed astonishment, we only won one of seven. The suburbs in Dallas and Houston flipped hard to the Democrat side. It was so unexpected I at first thought there had been some massive voter fraud involved. But as I considered that the results were similar in a multitude of counties with different election officials, I quickly dismissed the idea of any significant increase in fraud than is normal. A few days after the election, I saw numbers that showed it was not just a Texas phenomenon, but a national one. Suburbs across the country moved dramatically and spontaneously into the Democrat Column. Political operatives from all over started explaining that they had seen it coming. If so, none spoke up about it until after it happened. I just flatly acknowledged that I had not seen it coming at all. I’ve never been big about pretending I was right all along: when I am wrong I want to see what happened and how to adjust so as to get back on track under the new paradigm. Pretending you were right all along makes it significantly more likely you will be wrong going forward. People love to kid themselves that a paradigm shift is actually a fluke, because if it is a fluke you don’t have to change anything you are doing. If it is a paradigm shift you have to dramatically re-tool. The truth is that in most paradigm shifts, the people on the losing end do not recover because they spend years convincing themselves it was all a fluke. That was when the fluke of black voters going Democrat became a permanent situation. In 1932 and 1934, Republicans convinced themselves this was just a peculiar reaction to the Depression and that as soon as things smoothed out, black folks would “come home” to the Republican Party. It was a soothing balm to Republican leaders and operatives – but it lost the minority vote for at least four generations.
There is an old saying about small, family-owned businesses: the first generation makes the money, the second generation spends it, and the third generation loses it entirely. In contemplating 2018, I came to think that there is an element to suburban life that is similar. A big chunk of suburbanites think they are immune to the consequences of bad policy. It was the World War II generation that built the suburbs, making cozy homes with easy access to their jobs, but away from the dysfunctions of the cities. The second generation, my parents, were the suburban backyard barbecue generation. It was a good life. The current generation, secure in the stable template built by their grandparents, think the consequences of irresponsible policy will never catch up to them. They think they can safely indulge in some virtue-signaling bad policy without suffering any serious blowback.
Recent polls have shown serious erosion of support for Democrats among minority blocs. Oh the Democrats are still dominant – but instead of getting 90+ percent of the black vote and 60+ percent of the Hispanic vote, the numbers have been reduced to 70+ and a near 50-50 split, respectively. If those numbers come anywhere near holding in actual elections, Democrats would be eviscerated across the country. It would be a third consecutive black swan event.
In Texas last year, I was beguiled into a false sense of security because of the special state senate election on September 18 that sent Republican Pete Flores to victory in a district that borders Mexico and takes in a swath of the San Antonio suburbs. The Democrats had held that seat for 139 years. Flores did not eke out a narrow victory; he won by a decisive six points. I thought it was a harbinger of good things to come and that it confirmed my analysis of the dynamics of the election cycle. Instead, it was one of very few big ones of those pro-lifers got deeply involved in that we did win.
I am never satisfied with glib explanations of setbacks that only account for a slice of the results rather than the totality of them. It is one of the few areas where my mind insists upon an… ahem…holistic explanation. How to square the Flores’ results with the larger suburban collapse a month and a half later has preyed on my mind ever since. Those recent polls showing significant minority erosion for Democrats gave me a new template. Flores’ district is 66 percent Hispanic – and only a small sliver of it is suburban San Antonio. Thus, my initial interpretation of Flores victory was wrong. It was not a confirmation of the overall Republican message last year. Rather, it was the first sighting of the emerging black swan of minority blocs moving toward Donald Trump and Republicans – and away from Democrats. In that analysis, all the pieces of the last cycle fit together snugly.
I was tentatively working my domestic political analysis from this new paradigm when the special election in North Carolina Congressional District 9 strongly bolstered the framework I am working up. Democrats thought their man, Dan McCready was poised to score a great upset in this traditionally Republican district. The demographics had been changing, McCready had just run a hard-fought race in the same district with all the name ID that garnered. His lesser-known Republican opponent, Dan Bishop was at a big disadvantage in name ID – and McCready had heavily outspent Bishop. Democrats figured the suburban shift would propel them to victory, combined with the safe minority counties that predominate much of the district. Republican Dan Bishop won by just 5,000 votes. Democrats claimed a moral victory because of the close margin. But the voting pattern analysis is shocking to anyone steeped in the conventional wisdom of the last four decades. The suburban areas did, indeed, move heavily towards the Democrat, continuing the trend that emerged in 2018. What proved the margin of victory for Bishop was that all but one of the minority-dominant counties in the district moved sharply away from the Democrats.
Democrats, aware of the erosion of support with minorities, have been shrieking that Trump and Republicans are all racist or white supremacists – even calling minorities who support Republicans white supremacists. They hope this will halt the erosion of minority support. It seems the only people buying the constant cries of racism other than the ones making the charges, are white suburbanites. More and more minorities, who actually have to live with the consequences of stupid virtue-signaling policies, are asking themselves what is so racist about them wanting to have the same sort of safe, prosperous communities that suburbanites enjoy. In the process, they are noting the vast gulf between Democrat promises and Democrat performance: almost all of the violently dysfunctional hell-holes in America have been run exclusively by Democrats for two or more generations. And so, minorities are visibly now walking away from the Democratic Party.
Whether Republicans will capitalize on this, shifting their strategy and tactics to take advantage of the new paradigm is doubtful. Operatives hate to do things differently than the way they always have. Beyond that, the bigger the organization, the slower it is to react to genuine paradigm shifts historically. On the other hand, Democrats are sure they will keep what they have long had – and so, take it for granted – while convinced that they are taking the rest of the country by storm. Timidity where boldness is called for (a Republican characteristic) is dangerous, but preening hubris where prudence is called for (a Democrat characteristic) is deadly.
If I were developing a theme template for conservatives for the next cycle, I would emphasize these priorities:
- Expand outreach to minority communities, emphasizing the bread and butter issues that are lifting them up, while integrating minority members into the party leadership and infrastructure.
- Hammer away at the fact that long-term Democrat-led cities are violent, dysfunctional, impoverished ghettoes, contrary to what the left always promises will result from their policies. They always promise the paradise of El Dorado but usually deliver some form of Venezuela.
- Emphasize that leftist voters typically flee their own nests after despoiling it (see Illinois, New York and California) but then, like crows and blue jays, vandalize the nests they usurp, having learned nothing from their previous failures. Note that strong economies, good schools and safe communities can be quickly wrecked by succumbing to the siren song of lefties trying to enact the same policies that despoiled the states they came from.
There will probably be more black swans before we are all through, but I am grateful that I am starting to make some sense of the newly emerging patterns.
I had a great presentation in St. Paul, Minnesota this last Sunday. The crowd was lively, intelligent, and very serious about their faith. You may know that Minnesota uses the slogan, “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” Lest you think it hyperbole, it actually has 11,842 lakes. Ah, the modest understatement of a gentle state.
I will next speak in Kansas City. It will be on Saturday, Sept. 21. We will begin with a Rosary at 6:45 p.m. at the Irene B. French Community Center at 5701 Merriam Dr., Merriam, Kansas 66203. For information contact Connie at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 913-248-0686.
I picked up this beautiful Icon of St. Simeon holding the child, Jesus, at the People of Praise festival in Eagan, Minnesota on Friday. The iconographer is Mike Wacker (pronounced Walker) who has trained under Kati Ritchie, whose studio I will tour on Tuesday.