“History is like waves lapping at a cliff. For decades nothing happens and then the cliff collapses.” —French historian Henri See
Let’s look ahead.
Despite gyrating polls after Comey’s denunciation and the RNC “Gotham City” Convention, we’ve quickly arrived at a point that usually comes by Labor Day: Opinion is hardening and variables declining.
So we already know enough about both of these 100 percent-recognition nominees to engage in two Nate Silver–like probabilities: Can Hillary Clinton win by 8–10 points, meaning a possible “wave” election, and then would she aggressively pursue a progressive mandate and agenda? That is, despite “caution [being] her defining trait,” according to Chris Cillizza, can the inner Hillary rise to an historic occasion and be more Wellesley boomer than Wall Streeter?
I. Tidal Trends to November 8
In a period of very polarized politics, Trump and Clinton are now unusually unpopular. But the tides of history are carrying her and her party forward.
They include: a growing progressive majority, from the 1960s to 2016, on such big issues as climate, choice, women’s and LGBT equality, tax fairness, a pathway to citizenship, drug reform, and gun violence. Indeed, the culture war essentially ended with recent Supreme Court decisions on abortion, affirmative action, and marriage equality (even if no one told Mike Pence). Also, there is the rise of very liberal millennials (who broke 3-1 for Obama) and a drastic shift among white women to the first female major-party nominee.
But while Democrats understandably fret over daily polls, there are three larger converging trends that should make them confident and plan for the best:
Demography. Clinton will be the beneficiary of the much-commented-on demographic shift in the country, a steady 1-2 points more Latino and liberal every cycle since 1980. Then 90 percent of voters were white, while in 2016 that will fall to 70 percent (and 50 percent in 2045).
The GOP. The past century has not seen anything like the radicalism of the “Hell No!” party, a majority of whose members recently believed that the American president is not an American, climate change a hoax, abortion is murder, Benghazi worse than Watergate, and it’s OK to round up and deport 11 million immigrants. As former Congressman Barney Frank put it, “We’re not perfect, but they’re nuts.”
People have noticed. GOP presidential nominees have lost the popular vote in five of six presidential elections (having won the previous five of six). The party’s net unfavorable nationally is minus 30 (Democrats are even). Gallup reports a 41 percent rise over 25 years in Americans self-identifying as liberal. The gap between registered/leaning Democrats over their GOP counterparts is now 48 to 39 percent.