The 2017 Election and the Political Pendulum

Alright folks, it is time to wake up and smell the democracy, because we had an election this week. If you have spent any time watching MSNBC this week you have probably seen how giddy they are about these election results, while some Republicans attempt to downplay them. So let’s talk about what really happened this week and what it means for the 2018 election.

Democrats were able to replace Democratic Governor of Virginia Terry Mcauliffe with his Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and took the New Jersey Governor’s mansion back from Republicans by selecting Democrat Phil Murphy over Chris Christie’s Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno. Additionally, Democrats had some big wins down the ballot, including flipping the Washington State Senate over the Democratic control. Big day for Democrats you might think. Well yes and no.

At the heart of it, Virginia and New Jersey are blue states or at the very least deep purple states. Republican’s Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell were both superstars who generated Presidential buzz because they were able to come in and win victories in these states back in 2009. Just like how those 2009 elections were not great for then President Obama, the 2017 elections were always going to be a challenge for President Trump. Chris Christie has consistently polled as one of the least popular Governors in the entire country, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that his Lt. Governor would be facing an uphill battle to replace him. Virginia presents a real challenge for Republicans because of the growing number of folks who work in DC but live in the northern parts of Virginia. Oregonians are familiar with the concept of “Portland Creep” and similarly Virginia has become victim to “DC Creep”.

American politics has always been a pendulum, and you can’t keep a pendulum from swinging back by sheer force of will. If November 2016 was the high water mark for national Republicans, then there is really nowhere else to go but down. With rare exceptions, like the 2002 election shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the sitting President’s party almost always takes a hit in the off-year cycle. Look at the voter turnout numbers in Virginia and it is pretty clear to see that Democrats are more motivated right now than Republicans are. During President Obama time in office, the Democratic party lost over 1000 seats down nationally. Holding the White house only masked how much the Democratic party had been gutted at the state and local level. National Republicans have to show that they are worthy of the majorities they now hold or risk a similar decline when the pendulum swings away.

Trumpism was successful in 2016 when it was in direct contrast with Clintonism. One of the main reasons Donald Trump was able to be successful in the election was because many in the Obama Coalition that made President Obama victorious in 2008 and 2012 did not turn out to support Hillary Clinton in 2016. Having Clinton at the top of the ticket dampened Democratic enthusiasm and the leftist media assured the voters that she was a sure winner, leading to a decreased turnout among potential Democratic voters. Now opposition to President Trump has energized the Democratic base in a way they were not activated in 2016. Republican’s response needs to be to find ways to jump-start our economy and fulfill the promises they made to voters on the campaign trail. Due to the political pendulum, it is likely that 2018 will come with a Democratic wave, but it is the actions of Republican leaders that will determine if there will be enough high ground for the Republican majority to survive the tsunami.


Jacob Vandever is political activist, lifelong Oregonian, and proud Oregon State graduate.

Lessons From The Alabama Senate Race

“The Democratic Senator from Alabama” is a strange thing to hear in the 21st century.  Since Jeff Sessions original election to the Senate in 1996, the United State’s Senate delegation from Alabama has been very reliably Republican. But that all changed the other night in the wake of the Alabama special election, when Democrat Doug Jones eeked out a victory over Republican Roy Moore.  So what can Republicans learn from this very very strange election?  Here are a few takeaways.

Democrats are more energized than Republicans right now.  We saw it in the Virginia Gubernatorial election, but now it rings even truer: the Democratic base is energized, and Republicans ignore that at their own risk.  Doug Jones and the Democrats were able to take advantage of the low turnout that occurs during special elections.  The percentage of voters who were African American in this special election rivaled that of when Barack Obama was on the ballot, a number that we saw dip in 2016 when Hillary Clinton was on the top of the ticket, a very impressive feat for Democrats and the Moore campaign.

Candidates matter.  Roy Moore had more than his fair share of baggage that has been discussed and debated more than enough everywhere else, so we don’t need to discuss it here.  Enough Alabama voters believed the accusations against Moore that he was able to lose a race that virtually any other serious Republican would have won walking away.  Maybe Moore would have even been successful during a general election with higher turnout, but we shouldn’t act surprised that many voters in Alabama were not highly motivated to get to a polling place and vote for this man.  Sometimes you bet on the wrong horse and when you do there are consequences, unfortunately, this time it cost Republicans a Senate seat.  It is the responsibility of candidates to earn votes from their constituents, a political party is not entitled to those votes even in a state as red as Alabama.  In order to win we should strive to also be worthy of winning.

It is probably an isolated incident.  Democrats are running around on the media circuit now trying to make more out of this victory than it likely was.  Time and time again news commentators attempted to paint this race as a referendum on Donald Trump and his policies, but I am not buying it.  Yes, Democrats are more energized, much like Republicans were during the 2010 special election to replace Ted Kennedy in the Senate when Republican Scott Brown was able to win a Senate seat in Massachusetts.  As I said earlier Republicans should ignore that momentum at their own risk, but this was a local election where the big thing at issue was the accusation against Roy Moore. Reading something more into that might be smart politics, but to pretend that the perfect storm that led to Senator Doug Jones is indicative of a massive blue wave that could take out even Senators like Ted Cruz, as some in the media are now suggesting seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

With an even narrower margin in the Senate, the Trump agenda is now very reliant on Senators like John McCain, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul, and others playing ball.  That could present some real problems on major legislation, but I am not convinced that in the long run, Roy Moore’s loss could end up being a good thing.  Saving the country from a drawn-out ethics investigation that would be broadcast wall to wall in the run-up to the 2018 elections seems like a positive to me.  Democrats would certainly like to get every sitting Republican on record for where they stood on Roy Moore expulsion and their messaging would attempt to make Roy Moore the Republican Party’s new hood ornament.  While this loss hurts, it should be a wakeup call to Republicans everywhere.  Be worthy of winning, or face the consequences.


Jacob Vandever is political activist, lifelong Oregonian, and proud Oregon State graduate.

Registration Gap Between Oregon Republicans and Democrats Narrows Slightly

It is no surprise that Oregon Democrats have a bit of an edge statewide when it comes to the voter registration numbers. On November 1st, 2016 right before Oregonians went to the polls to participate in the 2016 elections Democrats sat at 988,848 members strong, equaling 38.36% of the electorate. In comparison, Republicans stood at 716,953 and 27.81% of registered voters. During the 2016 election Democrats had a 10.55% voter registration edge over their Republican counterparts in Oregon. What is interesting though, is that since the election that gap has narrowed slightly, but consistently.

Given the most recent voter registration numbers in Oregon, the Democrats voter registration over Republicans has eroded 0.79%. By no means substantial numbers, but they consistently trend in the direction of closing the gap. Accord to the Secretary of State’s monthly reports on voter registration, the percentage gap between registered Democrats and Registered Republicans has narrowed every single month except for one. The most recent numbers have Democrats at a 9.76% voter registration edge over Republicans now. So the question is, why is this happening?

Both the Republican and Democratic parties in Oregon have been bleeding voters since the previous election, but the gap is closing because Democrats are bleeding voters at a faster rate. Where Republicans have lost 14,619 voters post-election the Democrats registration numbers have lowered 26,103. Part of that is the simple fact that Oregon Democrats just have more people to lose, so it isn’t surprising that the absolute numbers would be higher. What is interesting is that While Republicans numbers are down 2.03% since the election, Democrats are down 2.63%. Maybe as a result of decades of one-party rule in Oregon those who remain in the Republican Party are more die hard and zealous than the average Democrat. It could be that many Bernie Sanders types in Oregon are leaving the Democratic party because they don’t see it as progressive enough.

The main driver of these moves seems to be the explosion in nonaffiliated voters. Earlier this year NAV passed Republican to become the second largest chunk of registered voters. Right before the election, 26.57% of registered voters were nonaffiliated, now a full 30.35% of registered voters are NAV and another 4.53% belong to the Independent Party of Oregon. We can assume that a large portion of these new nonaffiliated voters are from the Motor Voter population being automatically registered as a NAV if they do not select a party when renewing their license at the DMV. The majority of people registered to vote under Motor Voter are registered as unaffiliated, somewhere around 78% according to the Secretary of State’s website. While the IPO’s growth over the last year has not been as dramatic as the NAVs, they have added 1,328 voters to their numbers in a time when the Democrats and Republicans are losing voters.

Maybe coordinated voter registration drive efforts will change this trend as the 2018 elections approach, but at least over the course of the last year it seems people have been fleeing the two major parties, they are just fleeing the Democrats faster than the Republicans. 0.79% difference may not seem like a big deal, but politics like football can be a game of inches. Considering Chris Dudley came within 1.5% of defeating John Kitzhaber in 2010, in the right situation that 0.79% could make all the difference.


Jacob Vandever is political activist, lifelong Oregonian, and proud Oregon State graduate.