If this political year feels unprecedented, it’s because it is. Even Nate Silver, oracle of the numbers, admits to its abnormality.
In a normal presidential election, both candidates raise essentially unlimited money and staff their campaigns with hundreds of experienced professionals. In a normal presidential election, both candidates are good representatives of their party’s traditional values and therefore unite almost all their party’s voters behind them. In a normal presidential election, both candidates have years of experience running for office and deftly pivot away from controversies to exploit their opponents’ weaknesses. In a normal presidential election, both candidates target a broad enough range of demographic groups to have a viable chance of reaching 51 percent of the vote. This may not be a normal presidential election because while most of those things are true for Clinton, it’s not clear that any of them apply to Trump.
Silver’s acknowledgement of the “not normal” elements of this particular election came in an essay in which he explored the possibility of a landslide for Clinton. We haven’t had any landslides for quite some time–since Reagan, to be specific–and one of the factors militating against one is the highly partisan divide of the American electorate.
These patterns [close elections versus those won by large margins] seem to have some relationship with partisanship, with highly partisan epochs tending to produce close elections by guaranteeing each party its fair share of support. Trump’s nomination, however, reflects profound disarray within the Republican Party. Furthermore, about 30 percent of Republican or Republican-leaning voters have an unfavorable view of Trump. How many of them will vote for Clinton is hard to say, but parties facing this much internal strife, such as Republicans in 1964 or Democrats in 1972 or 1980, have often suffered landslide losses.
An electoral college vote of 270 or more is all that is needed to elect Clinton. The value of a landslide–or anything close–is that it would sweep in down-ticket candidates. Conventional wisdom says a decisive Clinton win will give the Democrats the Senate, but it will take a massive sweep to wrest control of the extensively gerrymandered House.
A big win wouldn’t only give Hillary a legislative branch she could work with. It would also help Democrats chip away at the Republicans’ huge advantage in the nation’s statehouses. (We might even narrow the gap here in Indiana, where the GOP currently enjoys a super-majority.)
A girl can dream.
Given the intense hatred of Hillary Clinton that has been carefully nurtured by Republicans over the years, there is probably a ceiling to her support, even against the unthinkable disaster that is Donald Trump–a ceiling that will prevent her from winning a landslide. And while it does look unlikely that Trump can rebound from his self-inflicted wounds, the last thing we need in this bizarre election cycle is complacency.
If you’ve read this far, please check to be sure that your voter registration is current and correct–and stay healthy at least through November 9th……