Post Election Thoughts, Part 2 – and Looking Forward

Since I wrote Post Election Thoughts 2020, Part 1 last fall, I thought I’d finally get around to a Part 2 — which is actually mostly a look forward, and not so much a look back.

First, a quick look back.  Presidentially, Trump lost.  Period.  Yes, of course there are many “couldas”, “shouldas”, “wouldas”, and “yeah-but-what-abouts”, but he lost.  A large percentage of Trump voters think it was rigged; and a large percentage of Hillary voters still think 2016 was rigged.  Nonetheless, it’s over. Like it or not, Joe Biden is your president, for now.

Is Joe Biden your president?

We’ve been hearing the “not my president” chant for decades now.  First under Clinton, then growing ever louder with Bush 43.

I will throw a bone (or perhaps chew toy) to that crowd of howlers and doubters and concede that it looks like there were more than a few voting anomalies, such as sketchy absentee ballots and ballot-curing oddities, in populous counties of states that were extraordinarily closely decided: e.g. Maricopa in AZ and Fulton in GA.[1]  Regardless, it’s also evident that none of those were enough to swing a state, let alone the entire election.  Gonna take that bone away: this happens every election.  Every – single – pelection.  There are always anomalies and sideways glances.  Nothing is perfect, even democracy. Or perhaps, “especially” in a democracy.

This is one reason that I remain (slightly) in favor of the Electoral College (EC) over the National Popular Vote movement: it may be possible to corruptly swing a single state or two. But even if an entire state was so messed up (or amoral) that 100% of the vote went for one candidate (or, even 110%), it does not sway the EC outcome much at all.  It’s simply more difficult to fraudulently sway a large number of states without detection.

Built into this is a second reason: the EC usually (not always) gives a pretty clear indication of just who won.  For example, in the last two (very tight) elections the winner won by identical 306-232 [2] votes.  Fairly convincing majorities (yet Trump labeled his 2016 win a “landslide” despite losing the popular vote 46-48%).

Speaking of “minority” presidents, the EC gave Abraham Lincoln a clear majority over three other candidates receiving EC votes in 1860, despite garnering less than 40% of the popular vote.

[1] given the closeness in Georgia (a current official difference of only about 11,000 votes out of 5 million cast for all of its 16 Electoral votes) my pre-election assessment that a presidential vote counts more in Georgia than any other states stands substantiated.

[2] note that so-called “faithless electors” changed this 306-232 outcome slightly in 2016.  Per a recent 2020 Supreme Court case (Chiafalo v. Washingtonwhich was combined with Colorado Department of State v. Bacawe will likely see an end to such faithless electors soon — a situation I do not agree with)

One last thought looking back at 2020 and the presidential race.  I assert that without two things Trump wins, hands down.

  • Number one: obviously, the novel corona virus. The pandemic, our collective responses to it, and the consequences thereof completely pushed what was an almost certain Trump win into the gray area that columnists and the news media love.  Pre-pandemic the economy was roaring with record low unemployment as well as record high employment (and salaries) for minorities (especially blacks) and women.  Oh my, how that flipped.
  • Number two: Trump is an ass who broadcasts whatever undisciplined thought floats into his maze-of-a-brain without any filter whatsoever. Very unpresidential. Of course, he said stuff like “one day the virus will just go away.”  He didn’t do himself any favors. I score it an unconvincing 2-1 loss with an own goal.

Ok, enough looking back.  Now forward.


The US decennial census results are finally in, some four months late.  (Late, owing to the pandemic, and a few court battles about whether the census can legally count non-citizens as non-citizens).

The results are only a tad surprising, and there are some golden nuggets and poison pills for both Dems and Reps, although long term it looks better to me for Dems.

First, the population only grew about 7.4% over the entire decade; that’s the slowest growth since the Depression and Dust Bowl-cursed 1930s.  Still, 47 of the 50 states (48, including DC) recorded population growth; the losers were West Virginia (-3.2%), Mississippi (-0.2%) and Illinois (-0.1%).

Looking forward: Reallocation of Congressional District Seats, and thus Electoral Votes have been determined.  The “winners” are Texas (+2), and the following at +1: Colorado, Florida, Montana, Oregon, and North Carolina.  The “losers”, all at -1, are: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.  [this is the first time California, the nation’s most populous state, has ever lost a congressional district; for New York it’s just the second: they lost two seats in 2010].

Nominally this looks like a slight win for Republicans, as more generally Rep voting states get additional congressional seats and Electoral Votes, drawing away from solid Dem states like CA, NY and IL.

If one thinks the presidential contests of the past were dirty or tainted – think of the angst following both ’16 and ’20 –  then one hasn’t ever paid attention to re-drawing of Congressional Districts and state legislative districts, which has been, and is going on, under our very collective noses. It’s a terrific example of “polite fiction.”  [“Terrific” is etymologically related to “terrible”, in this case for good reason]. The “Fiction” being that this is all fair, balanced and representative.  This has been historically, and still is, the unseen dirtiest of dirty businesses – classic smoke-filled room stuff that we don’t get to see much of; something that is supposedly based on balanced and fair representation. In reality it’s highly partisan in most states, and the process will take its toll on anyone’s faith in the notion that the drawing of district boundaries is fair and independent.

For example, Illinois, which is hard left leaning, at least state-wide (voting 55% and 57% for the Dem presidential candidate in ’16 and ’20 and only having Dem US senators since 2010) currently has 18 congressional seats: disproportionately 13 Democrat and 5 Republican.  The new state CD map managed to squeeze an incumbent Republican out of his seat, Adam Kinzinger; this, despite the state losing a seat and having a solid majority of Dems in the current tally, so it will be even more disproportionate.  Not sure how this plays out long term, since Kinzinger has been a critic of Trump, especially his bitching about the election.

On the other hand, one can be sure that the heavily Republican-leaning Texas legislature will ensure that the two “new” districts will lean Republican as well. More on Texas in the footnotes.

This all has to be done quite quickly, as the campaign season for the 2022 mid-terms is already underway.  The 4-month census delay has not helped map drawers meet deadlines. [By the way: since 1935 the sitting president’s party has lost seats in congress in all but two mid-term elections.  Because the Dems currently hold a very narrow 220-212 edge – with 3 vacancies – we can count on the drawing of CD boundaries and campaigning to be very contentious.]

And, probably about as important, each state must now re-draw their state’s legislative and senate districts (except Nebraska, which is unicameral, and only draws one set of district maps). Again, these must be drawn very soon.  Haste makes waste, so be careful.

Back to census-based demographic trends, most of which look to be favorable to Democrats.

  • America continues its over-one-century migration away from its wide swaths of rural regions, and toward the urban, suburban and exurban centers.  Urbanites, and those close to urban areas, tend to vote Democrat; Rural dwellers tend to vote Republican. Covid might have changed this, as it hit right in the middle of the census; so it will take a decade to see what the impacts are.
  • Racially, there are actually fewer total Whites than in 2010; Whites tend to be more likely to vote R than D. [Trump got 57% to Biden’s 42% of White votes in 2020].

One demographic that I noted could slightly favor Republicans.  America is aging. The Average age in the US is up 1 year, from 37.2 to 38.2.  Mostly this is due to longer lives among Baby Boomers and older (those born before 1964). Older people have a slight tendency to vote Republican, and they definitely get higher voter turnout. It’s also partly due to a falling birthrate.

Regarding voting patterns. People tend to vote how their friends, neighborhood, and fellow community members vote. This has become kind of a closed-loop feedback system, as people now tend to socialize and associate mostly (or only) with those who think like them politically. I don’t think this happened nearly as much before, say 2000.  We are very polarized now.

There’s also a high correlation between population density and political voting patterns. Below 800 per square mile people tend to vote Republican; and below 100 overwhelmingly so.  It starts to change between 800 and 2,000 per sq mile.  From lower population densities, but still urbanite densities like Denver and Saint Louis (both just under 5,000/sq. mi.), to larger BostonSan Francisco and New York (14,000, 19,000 and nearly 30,000 sq.mi.) one sees profound diluvial pro-Democratic voting patterns.

For Republican patterns and densities, one would need to look at county population numbers; I can’t think of a single urban center that leans Republican.  I suspect that two major factors here are: the higher the density the more the propensity to perceive benefit from bigger and more active government (efforts to de-fund police notwithstanding), and urban areas tend to have higher populations of people of color, who generally vote Democratic.

Re-districting and the associated “food fights” are almost inevitable. Highly political gerrymandering is not a necessary outcome every decade.  Although states like Texas and Maryland (and several others) seem doomed, for now, to their grossly distorted Congressional District maps, several states have recently taken map-drawing out of the hands of their politically-motivated legislatures (and even state courts) and put them in the hands of supposedly non-partisan commissions. [3]

Maryland’s CD map, 2012-2020. CD 2, 3, 4,and 7 are so contorted it hurts one’s head

My home state of Colorado is one of these; we voted for two such special commissions back in 2018: one for US congressional districts, and one for state legislative districts.  Kind of a big deal, especially since Colorado has an additional congressional seat starting in 2022 – now up to eight.

Other states that are now drawing maps via “independent” commissions are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, New York and Washington. I can’t help but be skeptical of the “non-partisan” rating each commission would get, but I’m also optimistic that increased fairness and representation will result. (AK and MT have only one CD, but this applies to their state legislatures as well).  I’ve heard some squawking about preliminary maps from all sides already.

A few elections to look forward to besides the November 2024 Presidential and General Elections – when we will no doubt be told, yet again, that “this is a matter of life and death”, and “this is the most important election in our lifetime.”  (Insert breathless, feverish inflection as you wish).

I touched on the mid-term races in 2022, but special congressional elections will be held to fill vacancies as well in November, 2021.  With a Senate split at 50-50 there are several 2022 Senate elections to watch closely, wherein Reps must defend 20 seats, the Dems 14.  The likely close races to watch here look to be: Georgia (again), Arizona, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  Of these likely close races, Reps are defending 3 seats, Dems 4. Be prepared for an extra onslaught of advertising and “persuasion” if you live in those states.

And coming sooner, this year in September: (1) the nation will watch the recall election of Gov Newsome in California on the 14th, and (2) Europe – indeed, the world – will pay attention to see how Germany reshapes itself in the post-Merkel era, as they hold federal elections on the September 26th.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Joe Girard © 2021

Thanks for reading. As always, you can add yourself to the notification list for newly published material by clicking here. Or emailing joe@girardmeister.com

[3] Fewer Whites than in 2010.  This might party be attributed to several factors.  (1) more mixed-race couples and people-in-general who identify as non-racial, (2) mixed race people who identify as a person of color (e.g. Barak Obama who is exactly ½ White and ½ Black definitely identifies as black; people like Tiger Woods, who at ¼ Black would identify as Black), and (3) a reluctance — or even rebellion — by Whites against identifying people by race; e.g. some identify as Native American.  Why? They were born here, as were their parents and grandparents. They identify as Native.  Hmmmm.]

Original Gerrymander cartoon

[4] Gerrymandering is named for early Massachusetts politician, Governor, and 5th VP of the nation, Elbridge Gerry, who helped draw and then approved a political map of his state that was so distorted (in order to keep his party in power) that a district looked like a salamander.  Thus the word is a sort of portmanteau of his name and the amphibian.  Many states have outdone him today.  As Gerry was one of the nation’s founding fathers, it’s sometimes interesting to think that many modern jurists should divine to understand the thinking of founding fathers, and then seek, anachronistically, to incorporate such into modern judicial decisions).

Not all of Texas is severely gerrymandered, as much of it is rural and undividably safely Republican.  It is too large of a state to easily show all of the congressional districts at once in much detail, but the generally progressive counties containing cities like Austin and San Antonio have been chopped up and districted so that Dem Congressional representation is diminished.  Politics, it is said, is a full contact sport.

Shown is current Texas CD 21, in which fragments of San Antonio and Austin are lumped in with an enormous swath of rural-dom. Alongside is Texas CD35, which is more of a salamander and ridiculous.

13 thoughts on “Post Election Thoughts, Part 2 – and Looking Forward”

  1. Chris Cronk

    Thank you Joe, lots of good information here. Regarding your two factors that cause urban voters to lean Democrat: they strike me as correlations more than explanations. Did you come across any information citing why high-density populations like bigger/more government, or why minorities align with the Democrat party? I agree that both of those observations appear to be true, but what is the reason? I have the same question regarding why rural populations lean Republican. I’ve heard many opinions on this, but they are usually hypotheses rooted in the speaker’s bias. Do you think anyone has done and published honest research on why we align with the left, middle or right? I expect that the real answer is complex, in that I don’t think it is possible that all of the tens of millions of voters that voted Democrat or Republican all have the same reasons for their choice.

  2. Bob Petrie

    Hi Joe, nice job on the essay, as always. Like the way you dig into and parse the numbers. One correction, it’s Maricopa County in Arizona. There’s a Mariposa County in California. We’ll be happy once again in Wisconsin to help tip the balance of power in the 2022 elections. Democratic governor, Tony Evers, is up for reelection as is the Ron Johnson Senate seat.

    1. Joe Post Author

      OH Bob, good catch! Thank you. Mariposa, Farfalla, Schmetterling. But no!! Maricopa. Johnson’s re-election will be a spotlight of the 2022 elections.

    1. Joe Post Author

      Ha ha thank you chris Krank. Yep another birthday. We should gather our nerves and stroll about Baltimore, etc, and ask people how they vote and why. In daylight. Might be interesting.

  3. Steve Rolfe

    The electoral college is a travesty far beyond the fact that several elections have resulted in the majority winner losing the presidency. Because of the winner take all system only a few states are actually in play. This means the majority of American’s votes don’t count. It means that vast amounts of campaigning occur in just a few states. This distorts elections dramatically. No other political entity in the world uses something like the electoral college. It is a relic of slavery and the desperate compromise by the North to get the South to agree to joining the union. It should be abolished. That both parties abuse the system does not cancel out the bad effect. Currently the R’s are broadly abusing their power to load the dice in their favor because they can’t win on the merits of their policies. That, again, leads to corruption of democracy.

    1. Joe Post Author

      How do Germans choose their chancellor? It is even more indirect than the EC. Note that in Canada’s last federal election conservatives garnered quite a few more votes than “liberals”; yet Trudeau remained PM. (He’s calling a new election, soon, based on his success with Covid; how is that any better than the US system, especially since he had no majority before?) And, Israel’s recent reshuffling is certainly more obscure than the EC. Your argument fails in grandiose fashion.

    2. Joe Post Author

      A further reply is in order. I think your use of the word “majority” is incorrect. What you probably meant was “plurality.” This would also be a travesty, at least so far as the NPV movement goes. In 2016 no candidate rec’d >50% of vote; Hillary only 48%. Bill Clinton gathered only 43% and 49% in his wins. Are you advocating a runoff? What if Pop vote comes out ridiculously close, as in 1960? Then the food fights ensue and Jan 6, 2020 looks like a sorority party. In a nat’l popular vote your (or anyone’s) vote really matters less, not more. In a national vote you are in a sea of over 150 million; a grain of sand on the beach. With the EC (again, I’m not a huge fan) you are in a bucket of only about 4 million (in WA). So, one’s vote is much more likely to “count”, or have an impact. Further complications is that each state, and DC, have different election rules. Suppose one is in a state that has strict rules regarding registration and voting. Then that person’s vote likely counts less than votes in states with looser laws. Oregon is proposing 16 year olds to vote, and SF is moving toward allowing non-citizens. Some states have same-day voter registration, with few to no proof-of-residence requirements. I am uncomfortable in a system where such people and states can offset votes in other states, and in the end the “winner” might still have only 39, 43 or even 49% of the overall vote. You correctly point out a major weakness in the EC system: winner take all. However, that is not part of the nation’s constitution. States allocate votes as they see fit; most are currently winner-take-all, even if the “winner” gets a sad low plurality. This was to enhance their influence on the outcome. But it wasn’t always so. For example in 1960 Alabama elected 6 unpledged electors out of their 11 total. So JFK got 5 electoral votes, and Harry Byrd 6. It would seem more prudent and reflective of voters’ will to divide up states’ EC votes according to voting percentages; that way each state stays unique and can run their own rules. E.g. if a state has 10 votes and the turnout is 60%-40%, then candidates would get 6 and 4 votes, respectively. In the event of various percentages, they would either round to the nearest integer, or use integer math. This would not only greatly reduce the likelihood that a “losing” candidate ends up the winner; but would increase likelihood of states getting candidate attention; and result in an outcome that not only more closely resemble the states’ individual voter preferences, but also at the national level. Plus, in 1860 and 1960 we’d likely get the same winners. And a corrupt vote in IL, TX, or CA (admit it; it would happen) would not offset a vote elsewhere. I stand with the EC over NPV, especially if such minor tweaks are made. Regards, Joe

  4. Dave Zinn

    If the EC is abolished, anybody in fly-over country will have no vote at all. And it falls in line with the concept of representative government, we don’t vote directly on most things, we vote in people to vote for us.

    1. Joe Post Author

      Agreed Dave. See my recent reply to Steve. On the other hand, small states, with few EC votes and solid leaning (most of these are pretty hard Republican leaning, except this has changed in NM and AZ), would still get scant attention during campaign season.

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