Would Americas Really Vote for a Celebrity?
Republicans are cocky, and why not? Republicans have won just about everything they can. Save for a half dozen or so Senate seats that Republican voters threw away by nominating unelectable crackpots, kooks, and in one case a pedophile, Republicans now hold the most elective offices since the 1920’s.
In 2016 Republicans rolled the dice by nominating Donald Trump, probably the only Republican who could lose to Hillary, and we still won! So, much like the 1985 Chicago Bears doing the Super Bowl Shuffle, Republicans feel entitled to be cocky.
So, when a Rasmussen Reports poll came out last week showing that Oprah Winfrey, the ubiquitous former talk show host, business person, media mogul, and actress, who’s reportedly thinking about running for president in 2020, would defeat Trump, our side rolled its eyes and laughed. Because America would never vote for a TV star with no political experience to be president, would they?
I think this is dangerous overconfidence on our side, and it makes me nervous. Why?
Let’s look at numbers.
While the Trump electoral map looks damn impressive, it was, in truth, a pretty close election.
- Hillary won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. That’s not really close! In 1960, for example, John Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon by 112,827 votes.
- Hillary came within 72,000 votes of Barack Obama’s 2012 vote count.
- Trump received 2,933,373 fewer votes than Barack Obama
- Trump had no coattails. Republicans lost 2 Senate seats and 5 House seats. In fact, Trump may have well been saved by the strong campaigns of GOP Senators, as Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, and Florida’s “Little Marco” Rubio all won more votes than Trump. They dragged Trump over the finish line.
- If voters in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Milwaukee turned out at the same rate as in 2012, Hillary wins Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and she’d be president today.
- 40,000 African-American voters in Milwaukee County didn’t show up to vote.
- While losing Wisconsin by 7 percentage points in 2012, Mitt Romney won 2,682 more votes than Trump would win in 2016 while winning Wisconsin.
- George W. Bush won 72,836 more votes in 2004 while losing Wisconsin than Trump would win in 2016 while winning our state.
My point with all these numbers is that the story of the 2016 election is a story of turnout, or lack thereof, by Democrats. Hillary was a terrible candidate with an abundant amount of baggage. From all of Bill’s transgressions to her own email scandal, the Clinton Foundation, Benghazi, and her health, she was a uniquely bad candidate. Yet she still won the popular vote by 2.1 percent, meaning Hillary’s margin of victory over Trump is greater than six former presidents:
James Garfield in 1880: 0.09 percent
John F. Kennedy in 1960: 0.17 percent
Grover Cleveland in 1884: 0.57 percent
Richard Nixon in 1968: 0.7 percent
James Polk in 1844: 1.45 percent
Jimmy Carter in 1976: 2.07 percent
Much like Trump in 2015, Oprah Winfrey is a successful business person, a TV star with near universal name ID, and has zero political experience. Unlike Trump, she’s a self-made billionaire who’s incredibly likable. If she were to be the Democrat nominee does anyone believe that as an African-American woman she wouldn’t be able to excite those urban voters who stayed home in 2016? Wouldn’t she widen the already growing gender gap?
Her biggest hurdle may be winning the Democrat nomination, as it’s presumed that she’s not nearly as bat-guano crazy as her party’s base. However, in 1992, Democrats were so sick of losing national elections with liberals like former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis that they turned to a centrist southern in Arkansas GoverBill Clinton.
Sadly, we’re into what I argue is our second celebrity presidency in a row, and if Oprah is truly center-left and runs an uplifting campaign of hope and inspiration (hope and change) after 4 years of Tweet-storms and foul language, Oprah may be way more electable than we’re giving her credit for.
Rohn W. Bishop is Chairman of the Republican Party of Fond du Lac County, and he’s always worried about the next election.