2016 race takes us toward banana republic status

Which of these Republicans can win swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin?
Which of these Republicans can win swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin? AP

The GOP has won the popular vote only once in the six presidential elections since 1992. That occurred in 2004 when President George W. Bush was reelected with a scant 51 percent of the vote over Democrat, John Kerry. Yes, Bush also won in 2000, but he lost the popular vote in an election that was decided by the Supreme Court. Other than 2004, the Republican nominee has not won more than 47 percent of the popular vote. Nothing suggests 2016 will be any different.

The Democrats have a significant structural advantage in amassing the 270 electoral votes it takes to win. Over the past six elections the Democrats have won 18 states and the District of Columbia every time, netting them 240 electoral votes. The Republicans have been able to carry only 13 states every time. Those states netted them a paltry 102 electoral votes.

In order to break this pattern the Republicans must nominate a candidate who can carry some of the states that routinely vote Democratic, and they need to be states with more than a trivial number of electoral votes. The obvious targets are in the Rust Belt – Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, which together have 46 electoral votes. That’s more than enough to change the outcome of the presidential election. A Republican who can’t win in one or more of these states will be another loser. And that rules out virtually all of the occupants in the current GOP Presidential Clown Car.

GOP thriving

However, in May Sean Trende and David Byler published an excellent analysis of party strength in Real Clear Politics, and it shows that the GOP is the strongest it has been in decades in Congress and at the state level. Let’s examine this strange, but real, disconnect between a party that can’t win the White House, while reigning supreme everywhere else.

Trende and Byler’s analysis shows the 54 Senate seats the Republicans now control is their second-best showing since 1928. Their 247 House seats is the best since 1928. There are 31 Republican governors, and the GOP controls both houses of the legislature in 30 states.

From 1954 until 1994 the GOP was a permanent minority in the House of Representatives. The picture was almost as bleak in the Senate. During most of that time a Republican was president. And the government worked. The American people wanted the two parties to negotiate with one another to reach compromises, which is exactly what they did.

Health care revolt

In 1994 everything changed. The Republicans came out of the wilderness. They gained 54 House seats and eight Senate seats. And in 2010 and 2014 they struck again, first retaking the House and then the Senate. Why? Hillarycare and Obamacare. Virulent opposition to Hillarycare triggered the Gingrich Revolution in 1994, and Obamacare reignited intense voter opposition to the president’s health program and the partisan manner by which the Democrats rammed it through.

Many of these newly elected Republicans are radicals, unwilling to compromise. Both sides bear major responsibility for paralyzing the federal government. Neither side will back down. Trading in Hillary for Obama next year is a certain recipe for more of the same.

Both parties deserve the public’s contempt. Yet voters continue to perpetuate the impasse. Banana republic, here we come.

Goldman worked on Capitol Hill and at the National Institutes of Health. He has retired to Flat Rock and can be reached at