Electoral College Misinformation

Joe Biden, under the guidance of the Democratic Party, won the battle of the swing states, most likely due to ballot harvesting in urban districts in the states of PA, WI, MI, GA, AZ and NV.  This strategy was legitimized by the electoral boards of these states and enabled by relaxed mail-in ballot rules blamed on a pandemic. Thus, it was a legal, if cynical, electoral strategy. We should expect no less from our political parties.

But now there is a concerted effort to solidify urban liberal gains under Biden by changing the electoral system and also the operation of the Senate. Here we will discuss the selective misinformation propagating across the urban media concerning the Electoral College system.

Specific counter-arguments in red.

Why Getting the Most Votes Matters

(Actually, it doesn’t matter as much as this author thinks.)

December 13, 2020

As the 538 members of the Electoral College gather on Monday to carry out their constitutional duty and officially elect Joe Biden as the nation’s 46th president and Kamala Harris as his vice president, we are confronted again with the jarring reminder that it could easily have gone the other way. We came within a hairbreadth of re-electing a man who finished more than seven million votes behind his opponent — and we nearly repeated the shock of 2016, when Donald Trump took office after coming in a distant second in the balloting. (Sorry, it was not a distant second, nor was it even second. See voting data analysis here.)

No other election in the country is run like this. But why not? (Because it is a national election across a large diverse population spread over a large land mass consisting of a compact of semi-sovereign states. At local and state levels we can and do use simple majority voting.) That question has been nagging at me for the past few years, particularly in the weeks since Election Day, as I’ve watched with morbid fascination the ludicrous effort by Mr. Trump and his allies to use the Electoral College to subvert the will of the majority of American voters and overturn an election that he lost. (A POTUS election is won or lost in the Electoral College and the popular vote does NOT confirm the common will of the people by definition.) 

The obvious answer is that, for the most part, we abide by the principle of majority rule. From the time we are old enough to count, we are taught that the bigger number beats the smaller number. It is the essence of fairness. (If this were true we would not need a Bill of Rights amended to our Constitution.) It dictates outcomes in all areas of life, from politics to sports to cattle auctions. It’s decisive even in institutions whose purpose is to serve as a buffer against the majority. (And that would include the Electoral College and the Senate.)

“Take the Supreme Court,” said Akhil Amar, a constitutional scholar at Yale Law School. “No one thinks that when it’s 5 to 4, the four win and the five lose. Everyone understands that five beats four. It goes without saying.” (Absurd reductionist argument – the SCOTUS process involves 9 votes, not 150+ million.)

But the principle is especially important in elections. Why? Boil it down to three pillars of democratic self-governance: equality, legitimacy and accountability. We ignore them at our peril. And yet they are being ignored right now by millions of Americans, not to mention hundreds of high-ranking elected officials of one of our two major political parties. (Another false assumption. A voting system is merely an imperfect inference of the common will. All voting systems are biased, so the electoral rules try to minimize these bias errors.)

It occurred to me that in this moment, a defense of the concept of majority rule can no longer go without saying. (If it was an honest defense.)

First, and most fundamental: Majority rule is the only rule that treats all people as political equals. (False. Majority rule merely allows the majority to dominate the minority. Whether that is acceptable or not depends on other factors.) “That’s actually enormously important,” said Richard Primus, a professor at the University of Michigan law school. Any other rule inevitably treats certain votes as worth more than others. Sometimes that’s what we want, as when we require criminal juries to be unanimous in voting to convict. In that case, “there is one error that we prefer to the other error,” Mr. Primus said. “We want to make false convictions very difficult, much more rare than false acquittals.” (But this idea that all votes are not equal is specious. One cannot apply a national population weighting to the EC and then claim it is unequal. All votes for POTUS have equal weight within the states they are cast. That is how our Republic works because we are not “one nation” like France, we are a union of 50 semi-sovereign states and the national governing system is designed to balance large populous states with small less populous states. That’s why we have a bicameral national legislature and rejected simple majority voting for our national leader. Also, in reality, due to winner-take-all rules a minority of voters in large states like CA, NY and TX wield a disproportionate influence over the national outcome. That should be corrected by considering proportional representation of state electors. In other words, only 60% of CA, TX and NY EC votes should be cast for the winner of those states. Let’s see how the parties like that.) 

But in an election for the president, he said, there is no “morally relevant criterion” for departing from majority rule. Voters in one part of the country are no wiser or more worthy than voters in another. And yet the votes of those in certain states always matter more. “What could possibly justify that?” Mr. Primus asked. (Again, the geographic distribution of voting preferences is highly relevant to the process. If one takes a look at this distribution across the history of our national elections, the differences are obvious and significant for national politics. We ignore this to our great misunderstanding of our politics today. We are a sea of red dotted with islands of blue. We cannot let one or the other dominate by design.)

This is not just an abstract numerical concern. When people’s votes are treated as unequal, it’s a short jump to treating people as unequal. Put another way, it’s not enough to say that we’re all equal before the law; we also must be able to have an equal say in the choice of the representatives who make and enforce the laws. (False assumptions lead to false conclusions.)

There is a second reason majority rule is critical: It bestows legitimacy on the system. A representative government only works when its citizens see the electoral process as fair. When that legitimacy is absent, when people perceive — often accurately — that their vote doesn’t matter, they will eventually reject the system. (There’s nothing legitimate about it. Legitimacy is conferred by a social compact and social contract as stipulated in our national Constitution. It is not conferred by what the majority think they want.)

“If we’re going to rule ourselves, we’re going to be ruled by majorities,” said Astra Taylor, an author and democracy activist. “There’s a stability in that idea. There’s a sense of the people deciding for themselves and buying in. That stability is incredibly valuable. The alternative is one in which we’re being ruled by something which is outside of us, whether a dictator or a technocracy or an algorithm.” (No. We decide according to a national compromise. Simple majority violates that national compromise to favor one particular constituency.)

Finally, majority rule ensures electoral accountability. As the economist Amartya Sen put it, democracies don’t have famines. A government that doesn’t have to earn the support of a majority of its citizens, or at least a plurality, is not truly accountable to them, and has no incentive to represent their interests or provide for their needs. This opens the door to neglect, corruption and abuse of power. (Talk to the millions of Californians ignored by President Trump during wildfire season.) “If someone has to run for re-election, they have to put attention into running things well,” Mr. Amar said. “If they don’t, they will lose elections.” (Simple majority rule would mean that the government is only accountable to that majority and no one else. The Bill of Rights be damned?)

The benefits of majority rule aren’t just a preoccupation for liberals like me, still stewing over the elections of 2000 and 2016. On election night 2012, when it appeared briefly that Mitt Romney might win the national popular vote but not the Electoral College, Donald Trump tweeted, “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.” A little while later, he tweeted, “More votes equals a loss … revolution!”

He deleted that second one, but he needn’t have. He was only expressing a gut feeling everyone can recognize: The person who gets the most votes should win. If you doubt that, consider that the essence of the case Mr. Trump and his backers are making in every state where they are challenging the result is that the president won more votes than Mr. Biden.

Mr. Trump made the same argument in 2016, when he lost the popular vote by nearly three million, yet insisted that he had actually won it “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

That both claims are laughably false is beside the point. Mr. Trump knows that in a democracy, real legitimacy comes from winning more votes than the other guy (or woman).

(What President Trump thinks is irrelevant. He is a politician and all politicians favor what serves their political ambitions.)

Of course, everyone is a fan of majority rule until they realize they can win without it. (Which is exactly why we need a more defensible principled position on social choice, not one that favors one group/party over another.) In the last 20 years, Republicans have been gifted the White House while losing the popular vote twice, and it came distressingly close to happening for a third time this year. So it’s no surprise that in that period, the commitment of Republicans to majority rule, along with other democratic norms, has plummeted. A report by an international team of political scientists found a steep drop in Republican support for things like free and fair elections, and the respectful treatment of political opponents. The party’s rhetoric “is closer to authoritarian parties” in Eastern Europe, the report found. (Here, again, Mr. Wegman tries to make this a partisan issue. In 1960 Republicans opposed the EC, since 2000, Democrats have opposed it. Both are speaking to their electoral interests, not principle.)

For modern Republicans, democracy has become a foreign language. “We’re not a democracy,” Senator Mike Lee of Utah tweeted in October, in what has become a disturbingly common refrain among conservatives. “Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace, and prosperity are. We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.” (In spite of his word choice, Rep. Lee is correct. Simple majority democracy is the proper term.)

Notice how, in Mr. Lee’s telling, “democracy” morphs into “rank democracy.” What does he mean by “rank democracy”? Presumably, what James Madison referred to as direct or “pure” democracy, the form of self-rule in which people vote directly on the laws that govern them. But there is no such thing as “rank democracy” when it comes to elections. The term is nothing more than a modern Republican euphemism for majority rule. (More partisan bias.)

Speaking of the founders, Republicans love to invoke them in support of their stiff-arming of democracy. Perhaps they forgot what those founders actually said.

“The fundamental maxim of republican government,” Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist No. 22, “requires that the sense of the majority should prevail.”

(The Founders were not fools. Mr. Wegman tries to interpret their meaning to serve his own. Hamilton’s “sense of the majority” refers to the need for a national mandate to lead the nation – not a voting rule. Madison refers specifically to “republican government,” which is exactly what the EC serves.)

James Madison, who is often cited for his warnings about the threats of popular majorities, changed his tune after spending several decades watching the American system of government he designed play out in practice. “No government of human device and human administration can be perfect,” Madison wrote in 1834. But republican government is “the best of all governments, because the least imperfect,” and “the vital principle of republican government is … the will of the majority.”

Thomas Jefferson, in his first Inaugural Address, said the “sacred principle” is that “the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail.” In the same breath he emphasized that political minorities also have rights that require protection. Those protections exist in the design of our government and in the guarantees of the Constitution, as applied by the courts. The point is that minorities can be protected at the same time that majorities elect leaders to represent us in the first place.

(Again, Jefferson refers to the “will of the majority” but the popular vote does not necessarily indicate that ‘will’ as it applies across the national compact of states. The common will is inferred by the voting system, not defined by it. In our system we balance the depth of support (concentrated in population centers) with the breadth of that support across 50 states (the EC tally).)

Joe Biden will be the next president because he won the Electoral College. But he should really have the job because he won the most votes.

On the larger scales of history and justice, I find the arguments presented here rather odd. The settlement and development of the vast plains of the midwest are what made the USA the most powerful and richest national experiment in history. Compare this to the experience of Argentina. The USA and Argentina were similarly blessed with geography and natural resources, settled by Europeans, and were quite similar in endowments. Yet Argentinian policies did not open up the land to the larger population through homesteading and transportation networks, so the wealth became concentrated among a few privileged large landowners. No vibrant middle class was created. In contrast, the policies pursued by our national development created a middle class and an interdependent market economy that has become the envy of the world. China today is deliberately trying to engineer the same. Yet, our urban sophisticates want to discount the political preferences of “flyover country” and denigrate those preferences as the ignorance of the “deplorables.” I can imagine nothing so dangerous to our national unity.

I also find it bizarre that urban political advocates extoll the protection of minority rights, but then disregard such when addressing the national electoral system. Imagine, if you can, that the entire majority white population lived in the urban metro areas of the country while the non-white population was scattered across the rest of the country’s land mass. Would urban liberals be content to allow the urban white majority to dominate national democratic politics merely because they outnumbered the others? Would this be a blatant case of “white privilege”? Yet, when we simply classify people as urban vs. non-urban–which happens to correlate highly with how they vote, whether black, white, male or female–suddenly the tyranny of an urban majority is perfectly acceptable? That rationalization directly violates our understanding of liberty and justice.

No, the National Popular Vote does not define a free and just democracy.

A more circumspect analysis of our national politics would reveal that our current dysfunction is not the fault of the electoral system, but caused by our partisan polarization by geography and population density. This is a battle between urban blues and non-urban reds that cannot be won by either side without threatening the unity of the whole. We should sober up and keep that in mind. Our national media does us no service by distorting this fact.

How I will Vote This Time. And Why.

Back in September, 2016, I wrote an essay posted here explaining why I would not be voting for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump for POTUS. At the time I stated that “I do not believe Trump has the temperament, nor do I feel Clinton has the integrity, while neither display the requisite political skills to lead this nation.” At the time I argued for a protest vote and explained why, but nobody really needed to listen.

One could probably argue that I was only half right, because Trump did win the election and we’re still here. Political competence is probably in the eye of the beholder.

So, four years later we’re back with a similar choice between Trump for re-election or former VP Joe Biden to succeed him and I am again faced with the same quandary. You’re probably thinking, who cares? But I will state here in writing my decision for several reasons, in brief so as to not needlessly bore you if you’re still reading.

First, I’m a political scientist and policy analyst, so I’m not uninformed when it comes to American politics as I have been observing, studying, and analyzing our party politics for the better part of four decades. Second, due to my professional interests I find myself frequently in these contentious debates over partisan and ideological politics where the accusations and projections fly, the result being that I find myself constantly having to restate my initial positions, which are now published here forever on the Internet. With this record, I can merely refer my discussant to review what I wrote, rather than waste time restating it and not being believed.

This has been useful because for the past four years I have tried to explain to Trump-haters (and they really do hate him) that Trump is not the cause, but the symptom of our political dysfunction. Now, if you’re a Trump-hater, and I’m not, you’ll have none of it and so I have often been accused of being a Trump supporter, and I’m not. I just want to live in a rational world and there’s nothing rational about our current politics.

Let me give a quick overview of the situation as I see it. I don’t see a knight in shining armor here, either in the person of the President or his challenger. On one side I see a bull in a china shop, being deliberately poked and breaking things as his ego, self-aggrandizement, and political survival require. I do believe his one desire, for better or worse, is to be judged by history as a successful president. I imagine every president’s ultimate aspiration is to be judged in the same company as Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.

On the other side, I see a historically weak candidate with 47 unremarkable years in Washington politics, paired with an ambitious dark horse running mate that failed miserably among her own voters; both being propped up by a shadow party eager to return to power. Given Biden’s obvious cognitive decline and the excessive demands of the presidency, I really have no idea who would be commanding a Biden administration or what agenda they would put forth once they no longer have an opposition to demonize. The candidate seems unable to articulate this.

Not a great choice, but this is where we are.

For me this election is not just about judging personalities and character, both of which I find wanting (the first debate confirmed this). What I see beyond the media-driven smoke and mirrors is a deep power struggle between two contending visions of American society and between two elite political camps who both want to secure that power. But these visions seem to be a means to an end rather than the defense of constitutional first principles. It also appears that either side will do anything, say anything, in order to prevail in the coming election, even fanning the flames of social conflict.

I don’t see American politics as a battle between Athens and Sparta, or Rome and Carthage, where the loser will be erased from history. Rather I see a pendulum swing that has always marked our national politics. In my own experience I have seen Nixon as a reaction to Johnson, Carter as a reaction to Nixon, Reagan as a reaction to Carter, Clinton as a reaction to Reagan/Bush, Bush as a reaction to Clinton, Obama as a reaction to Bush, and finally Trump as a reaction to Obama. Will Biden be a reaction to Trump, or will we need to wait for 2024?

At the same time, I have lived through a cultural evolution that has seen the decline of national identity that has diminished our sense of shared community. As a matter of fact, supported by data, this is most defined by a rural – suburban – urban divide, which has been blurred by our obsessions with multiculturalism and identity politics. We are also divided by class, with growing inequality between the asset-rich and asset-poor. These changes have accelerated with technology and globalization. The resulting tension is over the pace of change, between gradual managed traditionalism vs. proactive progressivism. This is a significant point, because opposing positions on the pace of change can be reconciled.

Unfortunately, I see us turning national politics into the ultimate prize conferring power over the present and future, and now even the past. I think this is largely a political conceit. The pendulum still swings, but in the short-term power means wealth and control and that seems to be what motivates our politics today, from the top down. Prudently managing change and stable continuity seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle.

If you love or hate Trump, nothing I write here is going to change your mind – that’s pretty much a given. But consider the endless parade of scandals for and against the Trump administration and how that reflects on our democratic governance. Look at the failures of the media – both for and against Trump – to inform us objectively. Look at the attacks on our institutions – again from both sides. Look at the decline in trust across our society. One can merely reference a long laundry list of inter-party sabotage: from Russian collusion investigations and counter-investigations; to impeachment proceedings that were cynically pursued even though everyone knew it was a purely partisan gambit; to the politicization of a global virus pandemic; to racial unrest that has degenerated into violence and disorder; to a democratic national election that establishment elites threaten to dismiss as illegitimate. As I write this, we can now expect to enjoin another fierce battle that further politicizes our Supreme Court and judiciary. And I thought justice was supposed to be blind.

Trump is not “doing” this to us, and I’ve already used his name too many times in this essay considering he’s merely a symptom. My evaluation of his presidency is mixed, but one would think it to be an unmitigated disaster according to much of the news media. I can understand the dismay because the current administration has largely reversed the direction of the previous administration across most of the policy landscape. But that’s free democracy, which, despite protests to the contrary, we have not abandoned as we contest competing visions through the electoral process. But obsessing over the person of the presidency is driving us to the brink of insanity. Thank goodness for the Federal Reserve and Treasury, which keeps pumping money into our pockets (please note the sarcasm).

These last four years of political clashes underline the deeper societal dysfunction that has plagued us for almost two generations through divisive identity politics and a multiculturalism that deemphasizes our shared national culture. This is what I find far more disturbing than an elected official I didn’t vote for. What happened to winning elections through persuasion and common interests?

So, in brief, in November I will be casting a vote for the re-election of Donald Trump for three main reasons:

  1. A Russian collusion/impeachment effort that has consumed 4 years of national governance for naught, promoted by a disingenuous political opposition and a complacent or duplicitous Fourth Estate;
  2. A pandemic policy that has ignored rational risk trade-offs in a further attempt to politicize a health crisis that affects us all, especially those who can’t vote;
  3. The promotion of racial animus and division through identity politics and public shaming in order to advance narrow political ambitions.

To be sure, racial minorities do have legitimate and pressing grievances. But these societal failures are not being addressed by cancel culture and the Black Lives Matter movement. Minorities, especially urban minorities, have been victims of poor housing policy, failures of public education that impede life opportunities, welfare policies that weaken family structures, failed drug and criminal justice policies, and class-based tax and financial policies that disfavor the asset-poor, driving inequality. I don’t see so-called woke activists addressing any of these challenges, but rather scapegoating the police who have been tasked to manage these aforementioned failures. With the exception of financial policy, these are primarily municipal and state failures and the only national demand on the POTUS will be to restore law and order.

In my reading of American politics, all the misguided efforts have been primarily driven by the singular desire to destroy a presidency by extraordinary, undemocratic means. And yes, he punches back with little concern for decorum. But this has only served to delegitimize and damage our trust in American democratic politics and institutions. In historical context this is truly a self-inflicted tragedy and one that our foreign adversaries certainly appreciate.

Perhaps the cultural rot goes much deeper and for that we have only ourselves to blame. Several recent books have traced this decline from the mid-60s to the present. Today one observes a certain psychological hysteria consuming much of the population over politics. Just yesterday I read another typical quote in the media on the upcoming SCOTUS nomination: “The Republican Party is preparing…to send the U.S. spiraling into an abyss of illegitimacy.” Really? This has been going on for four years and we wonder why so many voters have tuned out. In reality, I suspect some of these alarmists are staring into the abyss of political irrelevance.

I cannot see where this election takes us but I can’t condone political sabotage, no matter who’s holding office. And I’m not interested in childishness claims of, “He started it!” Four years ago, I registered a protest vote, but events have degenerated to the point I will cast my lot. What I seek above all in American democracy is the support and defense of liberty and justice for all, in the historical tradition of classical liberalism and a free society. A further descent into chaos and anarchy certainly doesn’t promote that objective. As I have tried to explain: Trump did not convince me to vote for him, the Democratic Party did.

I imagine many who read this will vehemently disagree with my interpretations and conclusion, claiming Trump is the threat to democracy. I’m unconvinced. Trump is a one-man force of nature opposed by the entire Washington establishment and mainstream press. He’s not an ideologue and can hardly lead an authoritarian coup – he has no army of Brownshirts and the other two branches of government have not collapsed. We can survive one man for four more years, but the collapse of democratic government will be far more costly. Trump’s election was a warning shot across the bow of both parties, so I would prefer to see the political establishments and media promote successful governance rather than trying to tear down a sitting POTUS. Trump’s instincts have been good, though he tests the waters with tweets meant to provoke. That’s his strategy to read public support.

Dissent is to be expected and tolerated in the messy process of democracy. However, there is a growing tendency to dismiss those who disagree with us as not acting in good faith. I find that tendency to run counter to the ideals of a free society. I would merely encourage each and every single voter to examine their own conscience, vote, and then accept the results with sober resolve.

Then we can get back to more important task of living in peace.

The Great Revolt = Realignment

I reprint this in full from the Washington Examiner because this is the most accurate reading of American politics over the past 12-20 years I’ve seen anywhere. I’m guessing her book gets it mostly correct.

The Great Revolt enters a new phase: How the populist uprising of 2016 will reverberate in 2020

by Salena Zito November 18, 2019

WESTBY, WISCONSIN — In a country increasingly engaged in national politics and divided, the next 12 months may feel like 12 years. Voters in both trenches are eager to vote, convinced not only of victory but also of vindication. The shocking result in 2016 wasn’t a black swan, an irregular election deviating from normalcy, but instead the indicator of the realignment we describe in The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition, now available in a new a paperback edition in time for the 2020 election season.

The story of America’s evolving political topography is one of tectonic plates, slowly grinding against each other until a break notably alters the landscape with seismic consequences — a sudden lurch long in development. The election of President Trump cemented a realignment of the two political parties rooted in cultural and economic change years in the making. Although he has been the epicenter of all politics since his announcement of candidacy in 2015, Trump is the product of this realignment more than its cause, a fact that becomes clear as you travel the back roads to the places that made him the most unlikely president of our era.

Thirty-year-old dairy farmer Ben Klinkner doesn’t consider himself a member of either political part. “I am a Christian conservative,” he says matter-of-factly.

Sitting at conference table at the Westby Co-op Credit Union, the sixth-generation family farmer has a master’s degree in meat science, Klinkner explains when he left to attend college at the University of Wisconsin River Falls and then North Dakota State University in Fargo for his master’s he vowed he was never going to milk another cow again.

“And I’ve been doing just that every day for the past six years.”

“I chose my life because, not for the money obviously, but because I get to see my family every day. That’s what it’s about. I got to see my parents every day growing up. And my kids get to see that too,” said Klinkner, the father of three with another one on the way.

On Trump, Klinkner is pragmatic, “I am very happy with his policies, I just wish he’d put that Twitter down,” he said of the president’s unorthodox style of communicating. This cuts against the national media’s narrative that farmers will dump the president because of the trade uncertainty.

And yes, Klinkner will vote for him again.

Trump’s 2016 victory came in spite of his historically weak performance in the suburbs long dominated by Republicans. The key was that he more than overcame his suburban weakness with the mass conversion of blue-collar voters in ancestrally Democratic bastions of the Midwest, and his inspiration of irregular voters who mistrust both parties. We traveled to the counties in the Great Lakes states that Trump wrested away from Democratic heritage to find examples of the voter archetypes that define the Trump coalition.

Democrats in the 2018 midterms accepted this new sorting of the American electorate — contesting and winning, U.S. House races in wealthy suburbs long considered Republican fortresses in the pre-Trump era while letting Republicans in industrial and rural regions run unopposed. The strategy worked — and it has kept working for Democrats in the odd-cycle 2019 state elections, as Democrats flipped the Virginia legislature and won the Kentucky governor’s mansion on the strength of suburban margins that would’ve been unimaginable just a decade ago.

In the northern Virginia bedroom communities outside Washington, D.C., Democrats now control 33 of the 35 seats in the House of Delegates, up from just 22 Democratic seats the year before Trump got elected. And the two scant seats in the region the Democrats do not control stretch from the edges of the metropolis into farm country. A similar gain of five suburban seats near Richmond has given the party firm control of the state’s lower chamber for the first time in two decades.

In Kentucky, the Democratic governor over-performed in the suburbs of Cincinnati and Louisville, as the realignment snapped more jurisdictions to the fault lines of Trump’s own demographic imprint. It worked the other way as well, as a gun-toting, truck-driving, fish-hook baiting Democratic nominee for governor in Mississippi failed in his attempt to coerce blue-collar rural voters away from Trump and back to the Democratic version of populism.

In Pennsylvania elections this month, suburban southeast Pennsylvania county governments, long in Republican hands, shifted to Democratic control and ex-urban and rural counties in western Pennsylvania went the other way, toward Republican dominance. Both shifts represented a cementing of the new voting patterns from the election between Trump and Hillary Clinton, and portend another close election in 2020 in what is becoming the Rust Belt’s battleground state.

Large strata of the population are now not just eager to vote in the next race for president, but eager to vote against the party of their ancestry. This enthusiasm for new alliances is perhaps the greatest indicator of lasting realignment.

The election of Trump glued populism to conservatism, an ideology long leavened by anti-establishment rhetoric but rooted in the inertial acquiescence to the status quo that comes with laissez-faire policies. In Trump, Republicans have embraced, or have been forced to embrace, a more muscular and activist approach on issues ranging from trade policy to nonstop legal warfare with liberal state governments like California’s. Gone is the consistency of federalism, replaced in conservatism’s pantheon now with the base-motivating potency of perpetual confrontation.

The emotional exertion of Trump’s combative approach continues to provide Democrats with avenues of appeal to buttoned-up suburbanites who otherwise resist liberal policies. And it has forced populists on the left to copy Trump’s antagonistic style, elevating Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, the edgiest of the Democratic contenders for president, into front-runners.

Democratic populists seek to copy Trump’s success but not to win back the same populist voters who flipped margins by 32 points from 2012 to 2016 in places like Ashtabula, Ohio, or 18 points in Erie, Pennsylvania, both of which we profiled in The Great Revolt. Democrats such as Warren and Sanders have given up on winning those places — and those Obama voters. We called those voters “Rough Rebounders” and “Red, White, and Blue Collar” — the types of voters who made up the core of the Democratic working-class base from the Great Depression through Obama’s landslides.

Instead, Sanders and Warren hope to emulate Trump’s success with their party’s version of the voters we called Perotistas, those whose participation in elections is irregular, even elliptical, passing into voting booths every decade or so like comets crashing into an otherwise orderly solar system, only to disappear just as abruptly.

Trump motivated large numbers of these voters to come out in 2016, much as Ross Perot had done in 1992. Nate Cohn, the political data journalist at the New York Times who gave notice to Trump’s potential early in 2016, recently demonstrated Trump’s success in generating this turnout bump from among the pool of chronic non-voters. While less white than the electorate at large, this last reservoir of unrealized electoral clout does not lean left on cultural issues, according to Cohn’s data — making it the big prize for the 2020 elections for both sides.

For his part, the president has accepted that path — choosing not to broaden his appeal by tapering his temperament to one that might suit the two-income, two-degree Republican-leaning suburban families who split their tickets in 2016 and then chose Democratic congressmen in 2018. These voters crave predictability and civility at a gut level, two things in short supply in Trump’s style, but they tell pollsters they are wary of the lurch toward socialism in today’s Democratic Party. Thus far, their hearts have overpowered their heads in off-year elections in the Trump era, and Democrats are banking on the same result in 2020.

Suburban Milwaukee businessman, Neil Karolek is the exact type of voter Democrats are looking to pick off, except the CEO of a Pewaukee technology company isn’t going anywhere towards the Democrats despite not caring for the president’s style, “Do I like his style? Of course not, when you look at the results … there’s this weird disconnection between his demeanor and what happens with his approach on policies,” he said.

Trump’s unwillingness to play to these suburban sensibilities, far tamer than the rousable crowds who attend his rallies, may cost him his winning electoral margin. While he underperformed Mitt Romney in suburban jurisdictions in 2016, he did hang on to just enough college-educated voters to squeeze victory out of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. We profiled these voters as “Silent Suburban” women — and their small-town counterparts “Rotary Reliables” in The Great Revolt. Trump does not need Romney-sized margins in these demographics, but he can’t do worse than he did with them in 2016 and win Michigan or Wisconsin.

Whether or not the president ever turns his attention to winning over the voters who resist both socialism and his own style, other Republicans will be appealing to them. Suburban voters hold the keys to hotly contested 2020 Senate races in Michigan, North Carolina, Arizona, and Colorado — not to mention the entire slate of competitive house districts.

The suburbs may be where control of government will be decided, but the 2020 election will not be the end of the coalition Trump mobilized in 2016 or the resistance that formed in response. Why? Because the individualization of our cultural economy and the self-sorting of our communities will keep fueling distrust of establishment institutions and keep roiling our political and consumer behaviors. Establishment politicians, CEOs, and journalists all ignore the dynamism of this great revolt at their own peril.