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The Country Isn't More Conservative -- It's More Trumpy

There probably isn't anyone else on the right with his appeal. Without Trump, the electorate will look the way it used to.
The Country Isn't More Conservative -- It's More Trumpy
Image from: Wikimedia Commons

Slate's William Saletan has been looking at exit polls from this election. Among his conclusions:

... this electorate seems to have been more conservative than the 2016 electorate. In the 2016 exit polls, conservatives outnumbered liberals by 9 percentage points. In the initial 2020 numbers, the margin is 13 points....

The conservative tilt of this electorate, particularly amid such high turnout, bodes ill for Democrats.

Saletan appears to be saying that America has become a more conservative country over the past four years. I don't buy it.

I'm doubtful because Gallup has been measuring ideology in America since the early 1990s and the numbers have remained relatively steady: There are always approximately equal numbers of self-described conservatives and moderates, and fewer self-described liberals (although the percentage has been slowly increasing). Below, conservatives are red, moderates are gray, and liberals are blue.

This past summer, Gallup found that the percentage of self-described conservatives was trending down this year:

It's possible that "shy conservatives" were refusing to answer Gallup's survey, especially at a time when Black Lives Matter protests were widespread and they were paranoid about being regarded as racist. But even with the downturn, the numbers across the first three and a half years of Trump's presidency didn't change much. I'm skeptical that there's been a big, fairly sudden increase in conservatism over this period. (Note that conservatives outnumbered liberals by 9 points not only in the 2016 exit polls but in the exit polls for 2018.)

So why the higher number this year? A simple explanation: Donald Trump was on the ballot. Trump was on the ballot four years ago, but many people voted for him without feeling certain that he was a conservative. Some of his voters didn't want him to be one. Some conservatives withheld their votes fearing he wouldn't be one. But he governed as a conservative. He allied himself with conservatives. The conservatives at Fox embraced him. His voters are Team Conservative.

And there are a lot of them -- he increased his vote total by more than 5 million between 2016 and 2020.

Joe Biden is on track to win because he beat Hillary Clinton's vote total by, so far, approximately 6 million. But he's a Democrat, which means his voters are a mix of liberals and moderates. Republican voters are disproportionately conservative.

You have to remember that in his sphere, Donald Trump is incredibly popular. He's beloved. He appears to be the most beloved Republican president of my lifetime, and yes, that includes Ronald Reagan.

For quite a while, I've been saying that Trump will retain his hold on GOP voters. I agree with the premise of this piece by Jeremy Peters and Maggie Haberman:

... if he is forced to vacate the White House on Jan. 20, Mr. Trump is likely to prove more resilient than expected and almost surely will remain a powerful and disruptive force in American life. He received at least 68 million votes, or five million more than he did in 2016, and commanded about 48 percent of the popular vote, meaning he retained the support of nearly half of the public despite four years of scandal, setbacks, impeachment and the brutal coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 233,000 Americans.

That gives him a power base to play a role that other defeated one-term presidents like Jimmy Carter and George Bush have not played.... in private lately he has broached the idea of running again in 2024, although he would be 78 by then. Even if his own days as a candidate are over, his 88-million-strong Twitter following gives him a bullhorn to be an influential voice on the right, potentially making him a kingmaker among rising Republicans.

I've said that I believe he'll hold a MAGA rally on the day of Biden's inauguration to announce his 2024 candidacy. If it happens, it will be very well attended. You'll start seeing MY PRESIDENT IS DONALD TRUMP bumper stickers early in 2021.

But will he follow through? Will his health fail? Will he decide politics is too boring or exhausting?

Or will he go to prison? (I doubt it -- we generally don't send high-profile CEOs to prison in America -- and any trials he faces will make him seem like even more of a victim of the Deep State to his loyal fans.)

I think it's quite possible that Trump will drop out of contention for 2024, for any of several reasons. But we need to reckon with the fact that, in much of America, he's a superstar and a demigod. The number of self-described conservatives in the electorate will inevitably rise in any future election where he's on the ballot.

But there probably isn't anyone else on the right with his appeal. Without Trump, the electorate will look the way it used to.

Posted with permission from No More Mr. Nice Blog

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