Curt Smith: Republicans, Democrats both have key wins

Curt SmithThere was something for everyone in this messy election, perhaps a gift from Providence in a pandemic-driven season of social unrest. But on balance, as the vote-counting nears completion, Republicans won distinct advantages that will pay dividends for at least the next decade.

The GOP notched these impressive gains. Despite apparently losing the presidential contest, it held on to win the critical U.S. Senate, improved its standing in the U.S. House and increased margins in state Legislatures as all-important redistricting gets underway in 2021.

These gains come despite a hostile national news media with deceptive polling driving record turnout. This massive turnout, including among minorities, occurred under relaxed rules necessitated by the pandemic but thought to favor Democrats (mail-in voting, same day registration, late vote counting, etc.). Yet, almost everywhere, Republicans matched Democrats stride for stride.

So a fair analysis could conclude the nation embraced divided government to affirm the policy prescriptions of the past four years, while eschewing the chaotic climate created by a tweet-storming president. Americans—it turns out—favor lower taxes, less regulation and prudent judges and reject defunding the police, passing the Green New Deal and stacking the Supreme Court.

The most impressive GOP win is retaining the Senate, ideologically if not outright. Because the races are statewide, they almost always go the way of the presidential vote. But not in 2020, the most aberrant of aberrant years. A special Georgia election will settle the final numbers, but the GOP holds 50 seats outright, and ideologically, it has a majority 51 votes with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.

A close second in partisan gain is adding seats in the U.S. House. At this writing, perhaps 10 seats will flip to Republicans, giving Democrats a razor-thin margin and imperiling Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s prospects of an additional two-year term as speaker. Recent trends favor the party opposing the president in mid-term elections, so the GOP begins the new Congress with a presumption of winning the majority in 2022 as redistricting kicks in.

And the redistricting advantage—that once-a-decade political prize—goes to the GOP as well, due to its strong showing in the states. Despite focused efforts to retake legislative chambers in a number of states, Democrats failed to make significant inroads anywhere. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

The GOP increased its strong hold on the map-making process that will define legislative districts for the next decade. That will enhance demographic and geographic shifts favoring Republicans. For example, due to Americans moving to the Sunbelt, the states of Illinois, New York, California and perhaps Rhode Island will lose a congressional seat. Texas and Florida, and maybe Montana, all states with solid GOP legislatures and governors, will gain a seat or two from these deeply blue states. This not only boosts their relative standing in Congress, but also shifts the electoral college vote redder for the next decade. A 1% or 2% population shift will be amplified to a 2% to 3% percent electoral college shift following this election.

Even such slight shifts in the electoral college in a closely divided nation is a noticeable gain for the GOP.

For years, Republicans have been told demographics were making them irrelevant, but strong showings with Latino voters (about 35%) and a doubling of support for the incumbent president among African American men (from 8% to 16%) show that demography is not destiny for a party prepared to fight for ideas and ideals. Governing results, not race or geography, seem to matter most to voters.•

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Smith is chairman of the Indiana Family Institute and author of “Deicide: Why Eliminating The Deity is Destroying America.” Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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