I originally wrote and published this article on August 5, 2020 and the predictions based on history proved strikingly true. While it’s been a turbulent 10 months, I think this is a good reminder and reread.
When I began my blog, my focus was on writing memoirs. However, as everything does – including American politics – I have evolved, into a mix of providing information regarding writing, working from home, books, and promoting other blogs. As my site has grown I have also used this platform to address social issues that are important to me such as mental health, social equality, and on occassion trying to bring people back to normalcy. This is all in the hope that something I produce or post will drive you to write your opinions, journal entries, and anything that will tell your story – our story – to future generations.
Today, I want to tackle something I’ve been thinking about for some time. That is how history will not let us change history. I am looking at how the difference between Democrats and Republicans and their evolving ideals may be somewhat different, but their actions more alike than you think.
It’s difficult to believe in the divisive world we live in. But, it wasn’t long ago that Republican ideologies were Democratic ideologies and Democratic ideologies were Republican ideologies. In fact, most people who look into their facts rather than just believing what they hear on TV, Twitter, and Facebook will recall that the Republican Party pre-2016 is seemingly extinct with the exception of a few groups such as The Lincoln Project who attempt to retain the core values of the Republican Party. The same bodes for the Democratic party which at one time was a conservative party, has been increasingly pushing liberalism over the past two decades. Let’s also not forget that it wasn’t long ago that California was a Republican stronghold and Texas a Democrat stronghold. And as for my small town of Melbourne, Arkansas, a Democrat populous entering the 21st century has fewer than 20% of voters registered Democrat today.
People forget easily and the shifts between parties in core beliefs have crossed paths from left to right more often than just once. Even in the past sixty years you can see a massive change between states and whether they lean Republican or Democrat.
I’ve been a historian for a long time and written several books for state politicians in Arizona, Texas, California, and Illinois from both major parties. Even in my short time as a writer covering the last twenty years, I have seen a shift. In fact, I have been working with a tea-party Republican who now associates as Independant. She said something interesting to me a few weeks ago. This is taken from our interview.
Jody, you know the Republican party won’t exist within the next decade; not as we know it. They are too fractured in their own ranks. Democrats have their problems too, but their core values are more aligned for Democrats, Independants, and Moderate Republicans. I’m not talking the far left, they are as crazy as the far right. I am talking the 70% of people somewhere in the middle. They share core beliefs. Think about it. Trump was a Democrat his entire life. Then he runs as a Republican because Republicans were in search of something to save the party. He made promises to every faction of the Republican party. Whether he believed what he was saying only he knows. But, I know what he promised the conservative Republicans contradicted the liberal Republicans. But, it didn’t matter. People believed him regardless who he was lying to. It looked good for the GOP hierarchy. They had someone who could bring them together. But, then he created a wall between those factions widening the gap and breaking the party up. So, instead of a single Republican party you have three parties: the far right conservative, the traditional Republicans, and the moderate Republicans. They couldn’t get anything done working together their first two years when they had full control of congress. It took Democrats to help Republicans get their agendas passed. How crazy is that? Now, the Democrats just need to be patient. [long pause] Do you know that a Republican has not won the popular vote in America since 1988? Thirty-two years…over three decades. Can you tell me how this party is destined to survive?
Our conversation was enlightening to me. Especially the last part. 1988, President Bush, was the last Republican president to win a popular vote. We have had four presidents and seven presidential elections since then. Incredible. I always knew there had been shifts in political party history, but it wasn’t until this moment that I looked at those shifts in a quantitative way. The popular vote is a telling statement. However, popularity doesn’t matter so much in an Electoral-based election system. Remember, the Founding Fathers realized that the popular vote diminished the strength of socio-economic groups across a very large country. Essentially, a popular vote would serve the populous cities and eradicate the needs of rural parts of the country. The electoral vote is the great equalizer. It’s something we can’t forget. In fact, the electoral vote has worked so well, that two Republican presidents, George W Bush and Donald Trump won three of the seven elections based on their Electoral College votes.
The big push from left-leaning Democrats is, “we gotta get rid of the electoral vote. It’s not fair.” Well, before Democrats jump to that conclusion, why don’t we look at Democrat vs. Republican state shifts since 1960. Below, I will share four presidential elections. What I want my readers to see is the shift in each state from one party to the next. Pay special attention to areas as a region – West, East, South, and Midwest. Blue states are Democrat and Red States are Republican.
Now, I purposely chose these election years because they show the distinct change over time between the transition of Democrat to Republican supporting states.
The changes above occurred due to a shift in party values, socio-economic standards, and in later years the divisions of each party and the direction those divisions are leaning. However, when it comes down to how a party and how a state votes, it is all in the candidates running for president. In 1960, the young John F. Kennedy appealed to younger voters as well as a mix of the electoral college from the upper northeast, the midwest, and especially the south. In 1976, Jimmy Carter appealed to the welcome calm after the divisive Nixon years, Bill Clinton was an unknown, yet charismatic liberal southerner who could bring people together and appealed to a variety of cultures, and Donald Trump in 2016 was able to convince the GOP and Republican voters that he could bring together a fractured party.
Who knows what the results of the 2020 elections will be, though I want to show you two more election years. 1964 and 1972. Between these eight years the electoral vote did not only show how quickly the nation can change from it’s current state, but also shows that regardless how divisive parties are within their own ranks and certainly against each other, significant events in history such as war, pandemics, poor foreign policy, and domestic social struggles will bring opposing forces together to vote on the same social platforms putting aside personal party affiliations.
People have often compared President Trump to Nixon and publically Trump confirms that he has used Nixon’s divisive tactics as a blueprint for how he will run his election. Play-by-play it worked in 2016 and it appears the same playbook will be used in 2020’s race. However, one thing that may affect the difference between the 2016 and 2020 electoral picture is the historic recollection that Nixon didn’t win by a landslide in 1972 because he was such a good candidate. He won because the entire country saw his opponent George McGovern as leaning too far to the left. Nixon, had his vices, but he knew what he was doing. He appealed to the bigger picture. He understood that to win, he needed the majority. McGovern appealed only to his strict base.
So, then what about Lyndon Johnson’s landslide victory? Same thing as Nixon. Johnson’s opponent Barry Goldwater ran an extreme right leaning campaign alienating the more moderate portion of his party. Additionally, Lyndon Johnson benefitted from sympathy toward the Democratic party with the assasination of President Kennedy.
The historic comparisons are undeniable. While the facts I stated above are in no way the only reasons why one candidate won or didn’t win, they are the defining reasons that our country’s politics and leadership changes occurred between these years. How will these same factors affect 2020’s elections? We can see that in past elections a president who appeals to their extreme base results in an extreme political shift not only in an opposing party’s attempt to oust the president through votes, but also in the president’s own party which shifts away from the president with an emphasis to build strength in congress.
An extreme leaning vs moderate candidate often results in the moderate candidate’s landslide victory. Additionally, sympathy in American politics does exist as in the case of Lyndon Johnson’s landslide victory after the death of John F. Kennedy. So, what sympathy exists in current politics? The death of moderate Republican John McCain is often seen as a loss to the Democratic Party, Independants, and moderate Republicans due to his diligence in working for all people regardless of party and his support by Republican groups against the re-election of President Trump such as The Lincoln Project. But, more, the sympathy vote for undecided Americans may come from equal rights. Whether it is the current administration’s attacks on immigrants especially children and young mothers, the president’s ambiguous response when it comes to women’s rights and deviant behavior against women, or the many social movements spanning the country which have lost icons of American Civil Rights in Elijah Cummings and John Lewis within a year of each other.
There is no crystal ball that will tell us the results of the 2020 election. However, history has always been an amazing indicator in forecasting future events. When we forget history, it has a tendancy to come back and remind us of previous mistakes and abuses and the eventual outcomes. There are very few times – I can’t find any – where history was repeated resulting in a different outcome.
I find that as I work with people from extremely diverse socio-economic status, cultures, backgrounds, and political affiliations it is best for me to stay with the facts. I am not easily swayed by a Facebook post touting a “personal issue” that didn’t actually occur, nor am I swayed by public shaming which provides near to no context, nor am I swayed by a politician in any party who misleads or lies without providing substantive proof, or any facts at all to back up their claims. What I am keen on are facts to back up claims, not opinions. I am also keen on history and human psychological and emotional behavior. Those three things are rarely wrong, and number projections aside, as I said before: history, when repeated, rarely results in a different outcome.
How does this bode for the 2020 election? I feel that history will decide that more than polling numbers. After all, in thousands of years, people, our responses to life and challenges, and how we make decisions has changed very little. A quick historical look at Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, Meso-America, 1930s Germany, or 1990’s America will tell you that despite our differences, we are influenced by the same rhetoric, and uniformally opposed to similar results whether we have forgotten our history lessons or not.
Take this for what it is worth to you. After all, perspective is only what you are willing to see. As an American, the important thing to consider is that in 90 days you cast your vote for local, state, and presidential candidates. Whether you vote in person, absentee, or mail-in voting, the United States has the most robust election system in the world. Don’t let disinformation lead to voter suppression. Your vote counts.
*I’d like to say thank you to 270toVote for the electoral pictoral results.
I am a full-time freelance writer specializing in books, though I also write blogs, web-content, and handle several other types of projects. To see what I offer visit my rates page or contact me with specific queries and questions. I’m also available to help mentor you through your first book. I’d love to work with you, and if you know anyone else looking for a writer I offer a generous referral fee.