Prior to the last election, a conversation among friends included an “admission” by one, an executive in a large corporation, who noted that the past years under Obama had been good for him economically. His company had done well, he had made money and risen in the ranks, and that was enough. Concerns about foreign policy, longer-term impacts on the nation, liberty, social issues, immigration, etc., were of little relevance when it came to deciding who’d get his vote. Ditto for personality, morality, character, honesty, etc. Voting was transactional: which candidate would be more likely to keep things going well for him. He told us he was voting for Clinton.

There are various forms of transactional voters out there, but there is a common theme that goes, “how does this benefit me, directly and in the short term. I don’t care about anything else.” The counterpart includes philosophical voters, single-issue voters, identity voters, tribal partisans, rent-seekers, and gravy-trainers (the last two may be deemed transactional in that they seek a change that benefits them, but I’d use the rent-seeker label on them instead).

While the philosophical and single-issue voters tend to dominate in spaces where deeper political discussions take place, I suggest that transactional voters are far more numerous. This is why I don’t put much stock in the notion that Trump’s tenure is destroying the foundational conservatism of the Republican Party. Those that truly abandon a Party because of one stretch of years are few, and most will hop back in the moment circumstances change.

The last election wasn’t a heavily transactional one. Instead, it was driven by a conflict of visions, between a continuation of the Obama years’ expansion of government and skeptical/antithetical attitude towards traditional Americanism, and a thumb in the eye of all those who didn’t like America as she was. Obama set out to be transformational, to change things in the direction of more government. Clinton’s promise was more in the same vein. Trump, on the other hand, wanted to upset the apple cart. It was an election of “what’s better for us,” with the “us” being factions with two very different ideas of how America should be.

We witness a redux of this dissonant pair of views in the next election, with the Democratic field of a common mind in moving America sharply leftward, and Trump figuring to do pretty much as he has been doing.

I figure on a difference, this go-around. I expect the emergence of a large bloc of voters whose attitude will be “I’m scared ****less of what the Democratic plans will do to my life, my job, my health care, and my savings,” and who will overlook the passel of philosophical differences they have with Trump. I already know a few such folks. Many of the fears of a Trump presidency (e.g. nuking North Korea) haven’t happened, and while he’s mishandled many things and has some very wrong-headed ideas on trade and immigration, from a transactional sense, many people will feel they can tolerate four more years of his high-on-bluster, low-on-long-term-consequence caprice instead of ushering in someone who promises to muck with their money, their health care, and their jobs.

These transactional voters are being overlooked by the Democrats, who are battling with each other based on what the activist core is demanding while abandoning the traditional base of union and blue collar workers. Many of the latter will, I expect, vote for Trump rather than someone who promises to kill the industries that employ them (see: fracking ban). As will many Republicans who might have otherwise been inclined to stay home or vote third party rather than support someone they don’t like. The Democrats are, I think, making a big mistake if they believe that traditional party loyalties are going to keep their legacy constituencies in-house this next election. Trump’s populism (whether you like it or not) plays well with the blue collar and union workers that have traditionally voted “D.”

The election is a long way off, and the Democrats haven’t cast a single primary vote yet. But, based on the current field (even including the two late entries, Bloomberg and Patrick), I expect that Trump will win again, on the backs of voters who are voting to reject the Democratic Party’s promise to derail that which has been working for them these past three years.

Watch the momentum shift that’s about to take place, by the way. Once the impeachment inquiry culminates with a vote, the ability of Schiff, Nadler, and Pelosi to control the narrative will ebb, and McConnell in the Senate will put on his own dog-and-pony show, one that’s certain to give Joe Biden heartburn, among other things. Combine that with the soon-to-drop Justice Department Inspector General report on FBI and other misconduct, with an in-progress criminal probe by Barr, and with McConnell certain to play scheduling games that will muck with the campaigns of five candidates (Bennett, Booker, Klobuchar, Sanders, and Warren) who also happen to be Senators and thus would be expected to be at the trial that follows a House vote to impeach. Rock, meet hard place. Dare they skip the trial to campaign? Already, the gamblers tracked by have bumped Trump’s odds from 40% to 45% in the past week or so, as it becomes clearer that the impeachment investigation is ending with a whimper and a collective “so what” from the voters.

There will be much gnashing of teeth, and it’ll be as impotent as the previous three years’ gnashing has been.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


Like this post?