As an unrepentant, yellow-dog Democrat, I wasn’t enamored of the election results from last night. But the first thing that caught my eyes as the returns started to roll in was the drop-off in vote totals from four years’ before. Trump is going to end up with about the same number of votes as Romney got in 2012; Hillary’s total will probably be somewhere around 3.5 million less than what Barack pulled that same year. Trump will end up getting something around 59 million votes this year; he won because lots of Democratic voters didn’t show up, not because he was so strong at the polls.
The decline in both red and blue vote totals at the statewide levels was also evident in the two really surprise states, namely, Wisconsin and Michigan which, had they gone for Hillary, she still would not have awakened this morning with a larger Secret Service detail guarding her house, but the results in those two states probably would have been reflected in the count from Pennsylvania and other states as well. Trump’s totals from Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania will end up somewhere south of 7 million; Hillary won’t be far behind. Trump will end up pulling about 300,000 more in PA than came out and voted red in 2012, but in Michigan and Wisconsin the 2012-2016 totals will be the same.
Where I am going with these numbers is to try and judge the impact of the “gun vote” on the outcome as a whole. Because from the very beginning of this campaign, guns and gun violence played a central role in how these two candidates presented themselves both to those who ended up voting as well as to the substantial numbers who didn’t bother to vote. Hillary kickstarted her primary battle against Bernie in a take-no-prisoners statement after the shooting at Umpqua Community College. And Trump never stopped reminding his audiences that he was the NRA’s official candidate almost before his campaign began.
Now the fact that the NRA ran television spots in gun-rich states like Georgia, Texas and Tennessee probably didn’t affect the results in those states at all. A majority of residents in these states, wishful thinking to the contrary, will always vote for the GOP, and they don’t need the NRA to remind them that no matter who sits atop the national Democratic ticket, that individual represents a ‘threat’ to their guns.
But it’s in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania where the value of the gun issue needs to be understood. Because all three states have large, urban populations who are generally resistant to any appeal about guns, but they also have many rural residents, almost all of whom are gun owners and, in theory, might come out in force to protect their Second-Amendment ‘rights.’
The NRA is already taking credit for getting their man into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but the overall and most statewide numbers belie their claim. What cooked the Clinton goose was not the turnout for Trump; it was the fact that she was unable to retain the voting strength that the Bomber demonstrated in 2008 and 2012.
Which brings me, of course, to the obvious question: given the fact that all three branches of the federal government are now or will shortly be red, what will be the future for GVP? First of all, three states passed significant ballot initiatives: banning hi-cap mags in California, extending background checks to private sales in Nevada and temporarily blocking hi-risk individuals from access to firearms in Washington State.
There are now 19 states that require background checks beyond the initial point of sale. There were six states that granted unrestricted concealed-carry licenses in the mid-80s; it took the NRA 25 years to extend shall-issue to just about all 50 states. So the issue is not where GVP stands today; it’s where it was ten years ago and where it will be ten years from now. Remember ― if reducing gun violence was so easy, there wouldn’t have been anything that needed to be reduced.