By Steve Brawner
© 2015 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.
This past week in politics was all about the inevitable: a gaffe by Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton’s march to the Democratic nomination.
Trump spoke before a crowd of 1,000 at the Republican Party of Arkansas’ annual Reagan-Rockefeller Dinner, where he exceeded my expectations. His speech was funny and entertaining, and he handled the media well in a press conference. I left thinking he would be a factor until the crowded GOP field shrinks and the party’s support coalesces around a more acceptable candidate.
Then on Saturday, Trump said that Sen. John McCain, who spent 5.5 years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi, is not a war hero. His explanation – “I like people who weren’t captured” – was an insult to all prisoners of war. Trump later said he didn’t serve in Vietnam because he had bone spurs in his heels.
You don’t insult veterans, especially if you did not serve. The reaction was swift. Many Republican candidates condemned the remarks. So did the Republican National Committee, which indicates it was waiting for the opportunity.
So that’s probably enough about Donald Trump.
Clinton did not say anything particularly memorable Saturday speaking before 2,500 Arkansas Democrats at their Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Little Rock. She also did not put her foot in her mouth, which is why, come next spring, she’ll still be in the race.
Because we all want campaigns to be interesting, there’s some talk about Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont socialist who is making Clinton work a little for the nomination.
That’s a temporary flirtation. Some Democrats want to send a message to Clinton, the former member of Walmart’s board of directors whom they believe also is too close to Wall Street. She’s the party’s nominee.
She is not, inevitably, the next president. Republicans have some advantages going into the 2016 election. The country tends to swap parties every eight years. Republicans are raising a lot of money. And of course, Clinton has a long public record they can attack.
But there are at least three reasons why it’s more likely she’ll win than lose.
One is that Democrats have an advantage in the Electoral College. It takes 270 votes to win the election, and in each of the last six of them, Democrats have won at least the same 18 states and the District of Columbia, a coalition worth 242 votes. If that trend holds – and it won’t necessarily – then Clinton needs only to find 28 votes elsewhere. Republicans, meanwhile, have won the same 13 states six straight times for a total of only 102 votes. That’s a big gap, though it narrows when only the last four elections are included.
Another Clinton advantage comes from the Democrats’ long-standing lead among minorities, and Republicans’ failure to change that – or lately, even to try. According to the University of Connecticut’s Roper Center, President Obama in 2012 won 93 percent of African-Americans’ votes and 71 percent among the fast-growing Hispanic population. Mitt Romney won among whites, 59-39.
Those percentages are not that different from 1984, when Ronald Reagan won 49 states. But in 1984, whites made up 86 percent of voters, compared to 72 percent in 2012, and that number will continue to shrink. No wonder Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican presidential candidate, once said his party is in a “demographic death spiral.”
Republicans must win more votes among minorities. If they don’t, they’ll still compete well in mid-term elections, when older white Americans compose a disproportionate share of the electorate. But they’ll lose a lot of presidential elections. And frankly, they’ll deserve to.
Clinton’s final advantage is that the United States is in the midst of a major cultural shift. Voters have elected and re-elected the first black president. The Supreme Court legalized gay marriage with the support of six in 10 Americans. Many Americans even expressed support for Caitlyn Jenner’s gender identity switch. If the election is seen as a choice between breaking the glass ceiling with a female nominee and voting for yet another guy named Bush, the trend would favor Clinton.
There’s a significant percentage of voters who don’t merely oppose Obama, but despise him, and they spend a lot of time thinking and talking about how much they despise him. Many of those people feel the same way about Clinton.
They should reconsider their perspective lest they spend 16 years of their life mad all the time. Clinton’s election is not inevitable, but it’s more than half likely.