The first of the big European elections of 2017 is here, and it’s promising to tell us…very little. The governing coalition of Mark Rutte’s Liberals and Lodewijk Asscher’s Labour are not going to be able to form government again, but at least one and possibly both may be part of a governing coalition. Welcome, then, to the most pure proportional electoral system in the world, where 0.67% of the vote will usually get you a seat in parliament.
In a few days from now, the Netherlands will be going to the polls, the first of three (possibly even four) national elections in major European nations this year. The Party for Freedom (PVV), led by the charismatic Geert Wilders, is fighting with the ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) for first place in the election. If they do manage to win, will PVV form government and have Wilders as the new Dutch Prime Minister? Probably not.
In a month and a half from now, France will be going to polls, the second of three (possibly even four) national elections in major European nations this year. The National Front (FN), led by the charismatic Marine Le Pen, is fighting to have her elected as president, and she is leading the polls despite a strong challenge from the young Emmanuel Macron. If she does come first, will she be elected as President of France? Probably not.
Nationalist parties in Germany and Italy have the same problem, as did Austria’s Freedom Party in elections last year. What’s stopping them?
An old-fashioned election
For all the battering that received political wisdom got in 2016, it still has its uses.
The lead-up to the Western Australian state election has felt a bit like going back in time, all the way back to a decade ago. Then, as now, state politics are less important than they used to be, with the federal government vacuuming up revenue and powers from the states, leaving them on the edge of irrelevance. But one effect of this is that federal politics has come to an almost complete standstill, with the sheer numbers of important issues piling up, and the capacity of any government to make changes in any of them decreasing. This, however, has freed up state politics to continue being about ‘the issues’ (mostly), even though the importance of those issues is not as great as it used to be.
The Australian government has been in a state of paralysis for some time, across both major parties, because any real movement one way or the other on the vast array of ‘big issues’ it can now legislate on is likely to be met with absolute fury and, therefore, a loss at the next election, which always seems just around the corner – particularly in the modern, worldwide political environment, which is happy to throw the established order of things out the window. At state level, though, ‘big issues’ are no longer at play. The kind of things that are driving people to vote against the liberal order in national elections are not able to do the same as state level, because the states aren’t really able to do much about it. Conventional wisdom is therefore thrown a lifeline at this election which, I must admit, makes it a bit less interesting, but without the dull elections we wouldn’t be able to tell when a truly extraordinary election is taking place.
In part one of our election review, we looked at the results of the election by state and region, and what they indicated for the Democrats, Republicans and third parties. In this second part, we will be looking more closely at some of the states that mattered, to discover exactly where it was that Trump won the election.
States are in alphabetical order. Maps are courtesy of the New York Times, voting figures are from the respective state electoral commission.
Dem – 8,753,788 (+899,503)
Rep – 4,483,810 (-356,148)
Oth – 943,997 (+599,693)
California stands out at this election for how unrepresentative it is of the election as a whole. It is one of only five states (plus D.C.) in which the Democrats gained votes and the Republicans lost votes, and the only of those states in which the Democratic gain was over 100,000 votes.
Unsurprisingly, the shift in the votes predominately came from the major urban centres. Amongst the inner-city counties of Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Clara, the blue vote increased by 485,727, more than half of Clinton’s gains in California. There was also some increase in her vote in suburban/coastal northern California, with a collective increase of 146,277 in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo Counties. But it’s in southern and eastern California, traditionally stronger Republican territory, where Clinton made the most impressive gains. Removing San Diego and Los Angeles, her vote increased in SoCal by 236,937, including flipping Orange County with a 180,000 vote turnaround.
Donald Trump’s unpopularity in the OC is, I think, indicative of the enormous political shift that has occurred, as Orange County has not voted Democrat since 1936. It is reflective of both a cultural shift that has occurred within the county, and indeed across the other coastal counties, and also of a political shift that has occurred within the Republican Party, which is not appealing to these counties like, say, Mitt Romney was. On the other hand, Trump’s vote in Kern, Riverside and San Bernardino actually increased, while his overall vote in the counties he won was more or less exactly the same as it was in 2012. It was in the urban centres, where Clinton and the third parties gained votes, that his losses occurred, presumably due to the aforementioned cultural and political shifts.