I give up. I cannot stop obsessing about the election. I have tried plunging into the Critique of Pure Reason, I have tried binge watching Mozart in the Jungle, I have tried early morning walks, I have even tried watching Beach Volleyball and Dressage at the Olympics. It just doesn’t work. So I am going to give in and blog about my latest speculation about whether the Democrats can take back the Senate and the House. By the way, I am now quite convinced that Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States, a thought even more depressing than Olympic Badminton. [And yes, even so, I shall continue working here in North Carolina for Clinton. I just did two hours of voter registration this morning.]
I have a thought that does not yet rise to the level of a theory. Here it is, put as simply as I am able. Let me start with some facts. Roughly sixty percent of eligible voters actually go out and voter in an American presidential election, only forty percent in off-year Congressional elections. These are rather startling numbers, for all that we have become accustomed to them.
Now, there is a good deal of evidence that reliably Republican voters are being turned off in large numbers by Trump. This is indicated both directly by polling data and indirectly by the unusually large numbers of people polled who say they intend to vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. In response to the data, more and more Republican office holders and candidates are calling on the Republican National Committee to cut Trump loose and concentrate their spending and other efforts on down-ballot candidates in an effort to stem the bleeding.
The assumption behind this proposal is that it is possible to get significant numbers of reliable Republicans to vote for the Republican candidates for Senator and Representative even if they either vote for Johnson, vote for Clinton, or simply do not cast a ballot for any presidential candidate.
But I have begun to wonder whether that is realistic. The enormous disparity between the proportion of eligible voters voting in presidential and off-year elections indicates that a great many Americans – perhaps as many as fifty-five million – are only motivated to turn out by the desire to vote for a candidate at the top of the ticket. Once in the voting booth, they tend to vote a straight ticket, but in the absence of a presidential race, a third who would otherwise vote simply stay home. By the way, it seems plausible that there are more Republicans turned off by Trump than there are Democrats turned off by Clinton.
Now, I tend to doubt that those anti-Trump Republicans will show up in large numbers and loyally vote for down-ballot Republicans. Surely confronted by Trump at the top of the ticket and not really excited by Johnson, for all that they give his name when polled, large numbers of anti-Trump Republicans who cannot be bothered to vote in off-year elections will just stay home on November 8th.
If my hunch is correct, the Republicans may lose many more House and Senate seats than the polls suggest, especially in light of the fact that the Trump campaign has, even now, completely failed to stand up any kind of on-the-ground campaign whatsoever.
Now, let us see whether Track and Field has started yet.