January 13, 2016



The media chattering class, consisting of political pundits and television talking heads, have decreed that Donald Trump is unelectable. They are mistaken.

Their premise is that Trump is too polarizing. They argue that Trump will unite the liberal/minority Democratic coalition and bring out "Obama Nation" in support of Hillary Clinton, and they presume that Republicans, especially those more secular and from urbanized areas, will boycott his candidacy.

The Trump-can't-win spin is predicated on the presumption that the 2016 voter pool will be the same as in 2012, when Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney 65,907,134-60,931,731, carrying 26 of 50 states, in a turnout of 129,085,403. They presume turnout will remain static, that Clinton will get all of the Obama vote, and that 15 to 20 percent of the Romney vote will either defect or not vote. But what if turnout is 140 million? What if some of the 15 million white non-voters get energized?

In any presidential election, 50 to 58 percent of the number of registered voters actually cast a ballot, and registered voters are just 60 percent of the number of adults eligible to vote factoring out non-citizens. The reality of low turnout and lack of participation might not be laziness or ignorance, it might be a vote against the candidates offered. A non-vote is a choice.

Look at these facts from prior elections:

1980: The 1980 census pegged the U.S. population at 226,545,805. Amid much malaise, including the Iran hostages, a floundering economy with high inflation and an energy crisis, voters were disgruntled, with liberal independent John Anderson initially showing appeal. The result, however, was a Reagan-Bush blowout, beating Carter-Mondale 43,901,812-35,483,820, with 5,719,722 votes for Anderson. Turnout was 86,513,296, up about 5 million from the 81,555,889 of 1976. Half of eligible adults voted.

In 1976 Carter-Mondale topped Ford-Dole 40,830,763-39,147,793, meaning that the Democrats' vote was down by about 4.5 million, the Republicans' was up by 4.8 million, with another 6 million voting for Anderson. The point is that voter turnout grew by six million, to 86,513,296.

1992: The 1990 census pegged the U.S. population at 248,709,873, an increase of 22 million from 1980. President George Bush got a credibility boost from the Gulf War, which didn't include a regime change in Iraq, but the economy lapsed into a recession by 1992. Billionaire businessman Ross Perot tapped into discontent and self-funded his run for president. He got 19,721,433 votes (18.9 percent of the total cast), while Clinton-Gore beat Bush-Quayle 44,908,233-39,102,282, in a turnout of 104,552,736.

In 1988, when Bush-Quayle beat Dukakis-Bentsen 48,881,011-41,828,350, turnout was 91,585,871. Turnout was up by 13 million, the Republican vote was down by 9 million, and the Democratic vote was up by 3 million. The major party vote declined by 7 million, which meant that about 13 million 1988 non-voters came out to back Perot.

2000: The 2000 census pegged the U.S. population at 281,421,906, an increase of 33 million from 1990. The economy was booming, but Clinton was mired in scandal. Eight years of Bill and Hillary wearied the country, especially the Monica Lewinsky and impeachment episode. Gore-Lieberman actually beat Bush-Cheney 51,009,810-50,462,412, but Bush's 503-vote Florida win gave him an Electoral College victory. Turnout was 105,425,985, barely a million more than in 1992.

In 1996 Clinton-Gore easily vanquished Dole-Kemp 47,402,357-39,198,755, with Perot amassing 8,085,402 votes, less than half of his 1992 showing, in a turnout of 96,277,223, down more than 8 million from 1992. Clinton got 3 million more votes, and the Republicans got 2.5 million more, so it was the Perot voters who disappeared.

Notably, Bush-Cheney got 11 million more votes than Dole-Kemp, whereas Gore, Clinton's vice president, got only 2.5 million more votes than the president got in 1996. Gore lost because he didn't sufficiently identify himself with Clinton. The country was still trending Republican, and Clinton was an aberration.

2008: Despite a sluggish economy, a surge of Bush popularity after 9/11 ensured his 2004 re-election 62,040,610-59,028,440 over Kerry-Edwards, in a turnout of 122,267,553. That was 17 million higher than in 2000, and Bush's vote zoomed by 12 million. Voters were re-engaged, and about 70 percent of 2000's non-voters opted for Bush in 2004. Kerry had 8 million more votes than Gore but still lost.

However, Bush's mishandling of the Iraqi WMD issue, coupled with general fatigue and the fall 2008 Wall Street meltdown, ensured a Republican defeat. Historically, at least since the 1950s, voters are disinclined to keep the same party in the White House for more than 8 years. Obama was at the right place at the right time, and Obama-Biden trounced McCain-Palin 69,498,516-59,948,323, carrying 28 states in a record turnout of 131,313,820, or 58.2 percent of registered voters. That was 7 million more than in 2004 and 26 million more than in 2000. Clearly, "change we need" spiked turnout, especially among minorities, with Obama getting 10 million more votes than Kerry, and McCain getting 2 million less than Bush. Obviously, most of those 10 million were 2004 non-voters.

2012: The 2010 census pegged the U.S. population at 308,745,538, an increase of 27 million from 2000 and of 82 million from 1980. Yet the country's partisan division, despite minority growth, remained at roughly 50/50.

In 2012 Obama-Biden beat Romney-Ryan 65,915,796-60,933,500, with the president winning 26 states in a turnout of 129,085,403, or 54.9 percent of registered voters. The Obama vote was 3.5 million less than in 2008, and the Romney vote was 1 million more than McCain's. Turnout was down by 2.2 million.

What is clear is that the Republican voter pool has hit a plateau, is graying and will gradually decline over the coming decades unless one of the following occurs: The Republicans reach out to conservative Hispanics and pull in half of the Hispanic vote; in 2004, Bush got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. Or the Republicans politicize and motivate the non-voting whites, which could number as many as 55 million.

Here's a factoid: According to the 2010 census, America is 74.1 percent white, 12.6 percent black and 4.8 percent Asian. Being Hispanic is deemed an ethnicity, not a race, so their 16.7 percent gets lumped under white, but is probably closer to 20 percent. That leaves the U.S. about 50 to 55 percent Caucasian, with more than half of all babies now born being non-Caucasian.

So, doing the arithmetic, 50 to 55 percent of 308 million is roughly 154 million 165 million, of which a third are non-adults or non-citizens. That's 110 million potential white/Caucasian voters.

In 2012 Romney amassed close to 61 million votes, getting an estimated 24 percent of the Hispanic vote and under 5 percent of the black vote; his non-white vote was about 6 million, so pro-Romney whites/Caucasians numbered about 55 million and white pro-Obama Democrats numbered about 40 million. There are 15 million untapped, non-voting white voters.

Trump need not appeal to Hispanics or white moderates. So he blows off 5 million to 7 million votes? He can focus on the so-called "Angry White Males" and their kindred female spirits, who are too disgusted to vote and who see no difference between the parties. If nothing else, Trump is different, and voting for him is making a statement.

That said, the election will be determined by the results in five states, Ohio, Florida, Nevada, Colorado and Arizona. All except Ohio have a sizable Hispanic vote, and the Electoral College still decides the election.

To win, Trump does not need to broaden his base, which consists of white conservatives. Instead, he needs to deliver his base, especially non-voting white conservatives. That pathway to the White House is implausible but not impossible.

45th Ward: Alderman John Arena, the Northwest Side ward's Democratic committeeman, has not only the proverbial egg all over his face, but heaps of yolk all over his credibility.

One of the few perks of being a committeeman, at least in the area's 10th Judicial Subcircuit, is that every fourth or fifth election, the 45th Ward committeeman gets to choose the "slated" candidate for Circuit Court judge. Arena was elected alderman in 2011 and committeeman in 2012, so this year is Arena's first crack at judge making, and he picked Stephanie Saltouros, an assistant state's attorney who lives in Jefferson Park. However, Saltouros quit the race on Jan. 7.

As analyzed in a December column, Saltouros' candidacy was an opportunity for Arena, who harbors 2019 mayoral ambitions, to show he had "legs" outside his ward. He doesn't. Other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination are appointed Judge Eve Reilly and attorneys Colleen Reardon Daly, Mike Malatesta and Rick Cenar. Daly is backed by the committeemen from the 39th and 40th wards, Reilly, a Traffic Court judge, got top bar ratings, Cenar is a former 45th Ward precinct captain under Pat Levar, and Malatesta, whose father was a judge and chief deputy state's attorney, is backed by 41st Ward Alderman Anthony Napolitano and committeeman candidate Andy DeVito.

Saltouros' candidacy was going nowhere fast. She was the odds-on favorite to finish fourth, but Arena could always pick her again in 2024. Hopefully, she won't quit again.

Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.