Donald Trump is losing this year’s election — and you knew that. But the part coming into focus is that the way he’s losing it may put Republicans in voters’ doghouses for decades. In other words, Trump’s not losing one election, but as many as five or six at once.
As The Donald himself likes to boast, hardly anyone has ever done anything like that before.
The past week’s polls have been brutal, for the president and his party, as coalitions emerge in response to Trumpism that could last a generation. Republicans are increasingly likely to lose the Senate this fall, just like they lost the House of Representatives to Democrats in 2018, as Trump marks their brand as one for people who are old, busybodyish, and, worst of all, disconnected from reality.
Specifically, the 11-point lead Quinnipiac University’s poll found for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, and the 8-pointer in Fox News’ poll, show the GOP looking more than ever like an all-in bet on the past, conceding the future to Democrats whether they deserve it or not.
Internal numbers in Quinnipiac’s poll explain why Trump’s party is in both short-term and long-term trouble.
Trump’s down 11 despite a 24-point lead with white voters who lack college degrees, about 40 percent of the electorate. With everyone else, then, he’s getting whipped by far more.
Both variables are moving, inexorably, in ways that doom Trumpism. The percentage of women with college degrees has doubled, to 36 percent, since Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 and nearly tripled since the last big GOP presidential wave in 1980, according to Statista. And the 67 percent white electorate was 76 percent as recently as 2000, says the Pew Charitable Trust.
So, Trumpism is betting everything on a base shrinking in both of its most relevant dimensions.
Fox’s poll isn’t much different. It shows Trump up 26 points (58-32) among white men without degrees, and down 21 (56-35) among white women with them. And he’s getting demolished, 67-21, among nonwhites.
That could be fixed in four years — normally — but the GOP has been lashing itself to Trumpian surrealism, even before the president raised disdain for economic reason and scientific fact to the performance art required to make treating Covid-19 with hydroxychloroquine or Lysol a partisan litmus test.
Think about educated people you know. How many think wearing masks is a masculinity test? Think gay people shouldn’t free to work without discrimination, or to get married, GOP-base mainstays before Trump? That government should restrict birth control? That immigrants all go on welfare and ravage cities? That neo-Nazis include very fine people, and barging into Michigan’s legislature brandishing AR-15s because you can’t get a haircut is normal? Some, but not enough to win elections. Attitudes on all these issues vary by education level and occupation — the more educated and white-collar, the more voters favor Democratic answers.
In other words, the culture war’s over and Republicans lost, even though many are very fine people.
These patterns are showing up in Senate races. Arizona, getting more Latinx and suburban, has GOP incumbent Martha McSally down 13 points in a survey by a local pollster. Colorado’s GOP incumbent Cory Gardner’s losing by as much as 18.
Of a sudden, the GOP’s 53-47 Senate majority could — theoretically — lose 10 members. Maine, Colorado, Arizona and North Carolina are acknowledged problems. But Georgia (which has two seats open this year because Sen. Johnny Isakson resigned for health reasons), Iowa, and Montana are newer problems, and the GOP has a uniquely weak likely nominee in Kansas. If Trump stirs a wave of repudiation, even Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, Texas’ John Cornyn or South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham could get wet.
The 2022 Senate map is worse for Republicans. Iowa’s Chuck Grassley will be 89, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey wants to run for governor, and North Carolina’s Richard Burr must explain stock trades possibly based on inside information about coronavirus. Democrats need to defend just 12 seats, all in blue strongholds.
The worst part for the GOP is that old white guys — those of whom Trump said, “I love the poorly educated” — still dominate the party. The path to GOP primary victory in 2022 runs through distaste for social norms (like abortion choice and multiculturalism) 40 to 50 years deep in mainstream culture, plus reality denialism. That’s why the GOP is likely to produce more Senate nominees — and a presidential nominee for 2024 — who struggle in November.
Despite Trump’s claims that everything he does is unique, we’ve seen this before. The best example (better even than Herbert Hoover) is 1896, when Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan to fight for the interests of farmers in a nation turned urban and industrial.
Bryan got buried, and buried every Democratic nominee but one for 36 years, because he was as out of step with America’s turn-of-the-century transformation as Trump is now.
The way the Democrats really killed themselves was nominating Bryan again — in 1900 and 1908 — to make sure no one forgot they were out of touch.
Like Democrats then, Republicans are falling over themselves to be the Trumpiest now, building paper trails to sink Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and for United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley whenever they run for president.
And President Mike Pence? Oh, mother!