Election Cycle Predictions: 2016 Edition

The tradition continues!  Over the last several years, I have built a fairly good political weather vane.  With just over eleven months to go until the 2016 election, some bold and some not-so-bold predictions lie after adjustment.  (Spoilers: I smell realignment.)

The Republicans will abandon halfhearted attempts to lure minorities, and will focus on poorer whites

In 2013, the Republican Party published an autopsy that explained why they lost the 2012 Presidential election.  Most of the paper focused on strategies to lure minority and younger voters into the Grand Ole Party.  Very few of the leading Republican Presidential candidates have followed these strategies.

Donald Trump is the most notable example.  Xenophobic comments about Mexicans and Muslims outright violate the “big-tent” mentality encouraged in 2013.  Trump (among others like Ted Cruz) continues to fan the flames of white fear similar to the “code words” used in Nixon’s must vaunted Southern strategy.  Ironically, scholars have suggested that this strategy is more effective in working- and middle-class, white suburbia rather than just the South.

The 2016 Election will be remembered as the first part of a major party realignment.

Party realignments are fairly rare, but they can have profound impacts on American politics.  A party realignment occurs when at least one large group of voters (with the same background) change parties.

If Trump wins the Republican nomination without malarkey, then the Donald will attempt (and likely successfully) realign many of labor’s base into his new GOP.  Although this may have seemed impossible a few decades ago, the Democratic party (especially since Clinton) has done very little to stop the erosion of private labor.  By framing China’s economic exploits as harming American (union) jobs, Trump takes his anti-“other” rhetoric beyond our borders.  Labor’s ancient roots contain heavy doses both protectionism and racism, which could help a large bloc of working- and middle-class whites join Trump’s base.  If Trump is able to capture private-sector union voters from the Democrats, then he will be able to continue the fight against public sector unions (e.g. teachers) while welcoming critical voters in several key swing states.

If Trump struggles to win the Republican nomination or if a less adept candidate (Cruz) wins the nomination, then the Republican party appears headed towards another Goldwater disaster.  In 1964, the GOP presented a hard-line conservative to a country sympathizing with the loss of JFK.  Highly unlikable candidate Lyndon Johnson somehow looked like a “good guy” compared to Goldwater’s far-right perspectives on various issues, specifically the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Presenting a similar, non-charismatic candidate in 2016 will lead to disastrous results for the Republican Party.  That said, it is likely that a 2020 candidate would have the ability to set a more favorable realignment as Nixon did in 1968 — which set the table for Reagan to win big in 1980.

The 2016 election cycle will have an extremely war-hawkish tone, especially regarding the Islamic State

With the media fear cycle in full speed augmented by campaigns seeking to seize the security issue, the 2016 race will be remarkable for its focus on fear.  The unifying message of most Republican candidates seem to focus on two main points: ISIS is very scary, and Barack Obama is not doing enough about ISIS being so very scary.  Even former (under Obama) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has contrasted herself as a war hawk against peace doves like Bernie Sanders and isolationist Rand Paul.

Ironically, the message probably ought to be the economy.  Despite flagging indicators for large swaths of American workers (near all-time high partial employment rates, still troubled consumer confidence, stagnated wages), security remains the key issue in the 2016 campaign.  Fear of life will trump fear of economic stagnation.

Neither candidate will make large changes to the Clinton-Bush-Obama policy system

One notable part of American politics since the 1990s is a relatively stable set of policies in place.  Since the end of Glass-Steagall under Clinton, a very bullish, pro-multinational corporation bias has pervaded American politics.  By driving down international trade barriers and corporate taxes, the United States has helped incite the contemporary global marketplace.

Even “major” laws like No Child Left Behind or the Affordable Care Act push people into the marketplace (whether through school competition or tax incentives to buy private health insurance), which is dominated by large, multinational corporations.

History of Predictions

In early 2014, I predicted a growing split in the Republican Party — one that has led to a leadership quagmire in the Speaker’s office.  I expected a split Congress, but by election week I had revised that estimation to a Republican Congress.  In 2014, I continued to refine a consistently strong Senate prediction model, along with a fairly good House of Representatives model. Finally, I accurately predicted that Barack Obama (as a political brand) would become the key issue in most Congressional races.

In the past, my predictions often earn a strong grade point average, hovering around a harshly graded B+.

Senate accuracy: 90.5% accuracy on average (95/105)

  • 2014: 94.3% (33/35)
  • 2012: 87.8% (29/33)
  • 2010: 89.2% (33/37)

House accuracy: within 5 seats on average

  • 2014: -10 Republicans
  • 2012: +4 Republicans
  • 2010: +/- 0

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