Skip to content

US Electoral Predictions for 2018 and Beyond

2017 December 13
by Ian Welsh

Back in 2009/10 I said that Obama would be replaced by a right-wing populist. I thought it would take four years, but it took eight, because the losses were concentrated down-ballot, and Obama hung on.

Similar to Matt Stoller, I have a fairly simple heuristic: People expect government to noticeably make their lives better, and when it doesn’t, they toss the bums out.

So, Bush Jr. was a disaster, and in ’06 a wave election put Pelosi in charge of the House. She did nothing with it: She didn’t oppose Bush in any meaningful way. In ’08, in the midst of the financial collapse, Obama got in, and, yeah, he didn’t help Americans for squat, instead concentrating his efforts on immunizing executives from fraud charges and helping banks defraud home-owners (see Chain of Title, by David Dayen if you think this is in any way an exaggeration).

So after his eight years, voters switched parties again. Yeah, it was close, yada yada, but as the field stood, Trump won, despite having the highest negatives of any Presidential candidate in history.

No, Trump didn’t win with racism alone; the margin of victory was given by people who had been willing to vote for Obama. Those people might be racists, but they were willing to put that aside if they believed in a candidate.

Trump had a very populist economic plan in many ways, and has implemented virtually none of it beyond some minor moves on the trade front.

And so the pendulum swings back, and in ’18 the Democrats will take the House and possibly the Senate. Will they do anything with it that really matters to help ordinary Americans in ways that are really noticed? If Trump loses in 2020 (or Pence), will the next Dem President do what matters?

The first party to do what matters will be in a position to sew up the country for 40 years, as FDR did after ’32 and Reagan after ’80.

And, as I have pointed out frequently, and Matt points out today, we dodged a bullet with Trump because he is incompetent. A competent right-wing ideologue who actually made the economy better (and it can be done), can change the US and own it–in a perverse reversal of FDR.

It is not enough to be for civility and decorum. Democrats must also truly be against Republican policies and for positive policies of their own which are radical enough to turn the United States away from its current economic trajectory towards further and further oligarchy. Policies which create and spread wealth, and which end monopolies and oligopolies, and break corruption.

These policies are well known and understood: high marginal tax rates, breaking up large companies and real universal health care, along with effective stimulus and investment. What is lacking isn’t knowledge of how to implement them, what is lacking is will: The Democrats don’t want such policies any more than Republicans do. What they want is kinder, gentler neoliberalism. A slow descent into oligarchy, with a few more cushions for the homeless.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

39 Responses
  1. Synoia permalink
    December 13, 2017

    Democrats must both truly be against Republican policies and for positive policies of their own

    I perceive the Democrats are very eager to be “against Trump” and for “nothing.”

  2. nihil obstet permalink
    December 13, 2017

    Reagan did what matters for the rich. The country pretty much coasted on its inherited strength throughout his tenure, but the recovery from the OPEC shocks of Carter’s time and the rather new development of a propaganda machine that masqueraded as news convinced people that it was working for them. Most people, for example, thought that Reagan lowered their taxes. He did once, and then subsequently raised them three times. He raised payroll taxes that hit everyone. What he mainly did was convince people not that they had done well, but that the reason they weren’t doing better was that government was giving everything to “those people” if you know what I mean. This enabled the rich to take more power than they had had since before FDR.

    Reagan was the triumph of meanness, not the success of policies that helped people.

  3. Herman permalink
    December 13, 2017

    The Democrats will likely never produce a real alternative to neoliberalism because they don’t think they have to in order to win elections. The Democrat Party’s electoral strategy going forward is to win based on a coalition of non-whites and socially liberal college-educated whites. Given demographic trends there is a chance that this can succeed at winning elections often enough. The Democrats have shown zero interest in appealing to downscale whites who are now being written off as unredeemable deplorables. The Democrats have no interest in creating a broad class-based coalition of poor and working-class people of all races.

    The current short-term Democratic strategy is to wait for the Republicans to implode from scandals and popular anger over crappy policies and then win elections with identity-driven campaigns. Then the Democrats will disappoint everyone again and the Republicans will win and we will just repeat this same back-and-forth until the country becomes a cyberpunk dystopia by which time the technology will be in place to make democracy meaningless.

    This is why the elites are so obsessed with technological developments like AI, robotics and Big Data. They see tech as the Hail Mary pass that will save them before the system breaks down and creates an opening for revolution. Good luck with rebellion when you are under constant surveillance and have drones blanketing the skies above you.

  4. sglover permalink
    December 13, 2017

    I doubt that Dems will fall into the big 2018 sweep that they expect. The economy’s on an upswing. Trump & the Republicans have nothing to do with that, but they’ll benefit anyway. If nothing else, it’ll tamp down the “throw the bastards out” vote, and let’s face it, that’s pretty much all the Dems have going for them. Republicans will likely lose some seats, but they won’t suffer a rout. Not even close.

    And let’s face it, even if the Dems did win solid majorities in both houses of Congress, beyond grifting more they wouldn’t have a goddam clue about what to do with their win.

    I think the squeaker win in Alabama is going to give a lot of believing Dems the exact wrong lessons about how to build an effective political coalition.

  5. December 13, 2017

    I will say, though, that I can’t help but feel a certain sense of schadenfreude seeing Roy Moore and Steve Bannon get humiliated in Alabama last night when certain people around here were crowing about how upset the “snowflakes” were going to be when Moore won.

    Maybe next time, guys.

  6. Willy permalink
    December 13, 2017

    Getting the big donor dollars while promising the little people results, is proving ever more challenging. The Dems must become better con artists. Make America hope and change again?

    This can’t go on forever.

  7. sglover permalink
    December 13, 2017

    Just to make clear, I’m delighted that Moore lost. The guy’s a disease. I just wish his loss had more to do with his deeply vile politics, than lots of leering sexual innuendo.

  8. Willy permalink
    December 13, 2017

    The trick is in being able to shift as much of the common culture away from tribal identity and towards what’s really going on, who the real enemies are. Moore was a good poster child for the corrupt nastiness that appears to want to benefit white males, but really only benefits the top 1%.

  9. Hugh permalink
    December 13, 2017

    I pretty much agree with Ian and all the commenters. That the Democrats stand for nothing is not a bug but a feature. They could have used the budget resolution to fight for a lower and middle class oriented tax package, not the Republican giveaway to the rich, but they didn’t. They intend to let the Republican bill pass, if it can, and then run against it. They will, of course, run against Trump. They are doubling down on the Clinton strategy of identity politics plus appeals to Republican suburban voters. The Roy Moore defeat will simply serve as confirmation of the sagacity of their choice.

    Re the economy, the stock markets are a bubble. The real value of American companies is probably about a quarter to a third of their current stocks valuations. The Trump/Republican tax bill is goosing them higher, not because it promises greater economic activity, but as I said above, it is a giveaway to the rich.

    The BLS jobs report came out last Friday. It showed that the private sector was to date 91,000 jobs ahead of last year, but overall, that is private and public sector combined, it is 71,000 jobs behind last year. So all in all I would say that Trump’s first year so far remains within the range of 2016, being only slightly better or worse depending upon which metric you are looking at. However, I would underline that 2017’s to date private sector job creation is a half million below the same point in my benchmark year of 2014. These data do not support that the economy is doing great guns, but rather that real growth continues to be anemic.

  10. Hugh permalink
    December 13, 2017

    Re Reagan, I would note that Greenspan’s Social Security reform with its creation of a fictitious multi-trillion dollar “trust fund” took place under Reagan and remains one of history’s great cons. The idea was that a heavier regressive tax would be placed on workers which would create a surplus which would be passed through a “trust fund”, flipped from there into general revenues and then spent, essentially giving more money for Reagan and succeeding Presidents and Congresses to play with. In the future, i.e. now, when money from progressive sources, such as income tax (largely paid for by the rich) and corporate taxes, would be needed from the trust fund to cover shortfalls, there would be cries that Social Security was going bankrupt and that benefits would need to be deferred or reduced.

  11. December 13, 2017

    “I just wish his loss had more to do with his deeply vile politics, than lots of leering sexual innuendo.”

    I’d say that both things are equally good reasons to keep him out of the Senate. I don’t want a Senator who couldn’t decide whether he was dating 14 year old girls when he was in his 30s (and who still couldn’t bring himself to muster much of an objection to that idea). And I also don’t want a Senator who thinks we probably should dump all those silly constitutional amendments like the one that abolished slavery, the one that gave women the right to vote, and of course, the one that says you can’t run for President more than twice.

  12. December 13, 2017

    One would think, given the outcomes this past year, that prudence would be in order. The only predictions I’m willing to make is the Retards will continue to cheat, it’s the only way they can “win”, and the dems will remain ineffective in stopping them.

  13. Tom W Harris permalink
    December 14, 2017

    That’s by design. The Dems would rather die on their knees than live on their feet.

  14. Jeff Wegerson permalink
    December 14, 2017

    The revolution will be televised. Well youtubed anyway. Repression no matter how security cameraed and how artificially intelluctualized can only succeed with the assent of the oppressed. The masses of college indebted health careless jobless childless cannot inform consent.

    They will grasp at the straws breaking their backs searching for any handy brandishable ideology.

    Which is your job Ian. You have already told us this. You already know you may not see successes of your expressions of your understandings. And since you don’t care then all the clearer those reality construction expressions will be.

    We are waiting Ian. The time is rapidly approaching. You are close. None of us care so get on with it. Ideologize us. Like now if not now.

  15. Webstir permalink
    December 14, 2017

    Ian, have you read Lambert’s latest neoliberal bow shot:
    It’s impressive. Are you two coordinating? Because the two of you are coming to some eerily similar conclusions.
    I fucking love it. The progressive machine is fine tuning it’s message.
    My spidey sense is telling me the we’re getting close to a breakthrough.

  16. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    December 14, 2017

    Welp, I sure hope all the Trumpanzees, Purity Troll Voters, and Non-Voters enjoy the New Net Order which Cheetolini appointee and allegedly-former Verizon employee Idjit Pie is planning to foist upon us soon.

  17. realitychecker permalink
    December 14, 2017

    One thing is for sure, we’ll never run out of crazy.

    Is anyone thinking AT ALL about the fact that all these outrageous Justice and FBI shenanigans coming out now happened under the OBAMA ADMINISTRATION?

    That’s right, the Obama administration, in place at that point for almost eight whole years.

    Using our normal political reasoning pathways, what self-knowledge should we all be absorbing at this moment?

    Not a trick question.

  18. December 14, 2017

    How about this? Trump was not elected by Republicans but by an undefined nascent third party. A counter factual would have had Bernie squeaking by Jeb with the same type of response we are seeing today but with the roles reversed. In 2018 and 2020 the D’s will win but nothing will change and by 2024 some form of third party will form with the policy of the opposite of whatever the legacy parties propose.

  19. Sid Finster permalink
    December 14, 2017

    No, Team D doesn’t want more cushions for the homeless.

    Team D wants the same things Team R does, but with a few diversity quotas, gender-neutral bathrooms, and politically correct genuflections thrown in.

  20. December 14, 2017

    If this third party is Bannon’s crew, it got dealt a humiliating defeat in Alabama on Tuesday. Still puts a smile on my face.

  21. realitychecker permalink
    December 14, 2017

    @ NR


    You win the Smallness of Mind Award for 2017.

  22. Peter permalink
    December 14, 2017


    The drama of Mr Jones goes to Washington has overstimulated the snowflakes again They actualy think they will get something other than coal in their stockings this Xmas.

    Lambert’s overwrought desideria for his lost identity shows that the postmodern commies have nowhere to go but back to old fantasies. The other possibility is that he is snorting too much meth and heading for a Communication Breakdown.

  23. December 14, 2017

    Nah. The small-minded people are the ones who still believe in Steve Bannon. Thinking people can see how the Alabama race exposed him as a fraud. Bannon’s been selling himself as the guy who knows what voters really want and who can get a win if candidates will only listen to him and do what he wants. He sells himself as the guy with a direct line to the angry base who are just itching to stick it to the “libtards” and the “cucks” and the “snowflakes” and vote for the Republicans he blesses.

    Nope. Not this time. Instead, he made a Senate seat in one of the reddest states in the country turn blue.

    Bannon was absolutely, 100% all-in for Roy Moore. He even brought in Trump, who campaigned heavily for Moore. Bannon actually talked Trump into losing twice in the same race.

    And I must say that it’s hilarious to see Bannon and Hannity and others blaming Moore’s loss on McConnell and the NRSC for not supporting him. I thought being opposed by the Republican establishment was supposed to be an asset for Steve Bannon? I mean, that’s what he’s all about, isn’t he? He’s the man who fights the establishment? The “elites?” According to Bannon, being opposed by them is supposed to be a good thing. To see him blaming them for his failure is really sad.

    And funny.

  24. highrpm permalink
    December 14, 2017

    yes, it’s devolved to competitive sport, win/lose for entertainment’s $$$. pax judaica full steam ahead.

  25. Albatross permalink
    December 14, 2017

    This is the latest battle in a war that’s been going on for nearly a thousand years: the war between those who have hoarded wealth and power, and those who were born without it and won’t likely get any more.

    For every powerful person there are thousands, tens of thousands, millions and billions of other people who have none. It would be easy, were those billions united, for them to remove the power of the few. If the 99.9% of the world all agreed, we could simply declare that the .1% had no power, and they wouldn’t.

    In order to remain in power they MUST divide us against each other. It’s easy to do, and the modern propaganda juggernaut that we’ve built greatly facilitates that.

    One way in which for the past 35 years they have divided America is by demonizing government and under-educating the population. An American population educated in basic civics would understand that the population IS the government, that under ideal circumstances government is the tool of the many to manage all our resources. Reagan said that the most terrifying phrase is “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” Grover Norquist wants to make government “small enough to drown in a bathtub.” Replace “government” with “the power of the common people” and you’ll see their real intent all along.

    Steadily for decades they have scraped away at the government and at the limitations upon the power of the wealthy and powerful to control it, until with Citizens United they finally got the green light to literally buy government out.

    Now the oligarchs, the aristocrats, the .1%, whatever you want to call them, are fighting over the remains of the American empire. They already sense its doomed – indeed, they have been working to doom it for decades. Whether the USA breaks up or just sighs and settles into a coma, they don’t care. What they care about now is that they can get the president to “shrink” a national monument so that they can mine its former territory for uranium, and ABC news will obediently tell the population that “President Trump signed an order returning control of government lands in Utah to its citizens.”

    The complicity of the media in all of this is essential, because the media is the giant propaganda engine used to manage the population by lying to us, confusing us, and turning us against one and other. Thus the idea that the media is “liberal” continues even though the media is by no means liberal, but is instead part of the engine of oppression.

    Just as the media is still being called “liberal,” the fantasy of the Democratic party being that of liberal populism and the Republican party being that of conservative populism is maintained by that media. In fact the Republican party is in no way conservative – the Republican party is the party of radical authoritarians working to destroy the government on behalf of the corporations. The Democratic party is conservative. It’s the party of people trying to maintain the status quo because that’s where their power is invested. The Beltway insiders of the Democratic party are heavily invested in Wall Street and the military industrial establishment just like their Republican counterparts, and they are the party of “don’t rock the boat’ because the boat is where they derive their power.

    So we call Republicans conservative, but they’re actually destructive radicals, and we call Democrats liberal although they are moribund conservatives, and we call the media liberal even though it is demonstrably a tool of the corporations against the people… and we wonder why we can’t figure out how to fix our problems? We don’t call ANYTHING what it actually is, no wonder we can’t fix it. You might as well call your gas pedal the steering wheel, and then complain that twisting it doesn’t turn the car.

    There’s a growing sense in America that the game is up, that the end is near, and the wealthy are focusing more and more of their efforts on twisting the government they have bought and paid for into a tool for extracting whatever remaining wealth exists for them to pilfer. And there’s a lot, we’re a rich nation, but that’s why obedient tool Ajit Pai just led the vote to dismantle Net Neutrality – so that the Internet can be added to the list of tools by which to squeeze a few last dollars out of the population before everything falls apart.

    And everything will fall apart. The population is kept deliberately divided, deliberately ignorant of essential concepts that would help fix things, deliberately confused by inaccurate terminology and the reinforcement of cultural mythologies instead of truth and discernment. This won’t last. Hurried along by climate change this entire system is doomed to collapse, because the only folks even TRYING to make the government actually function are the Democrats, and they’re only doing it to protect their own wealth and power, not to protect the ideas of governance or democracy. The ship is sinking: the Republicans are drilling holes in the side in order to yank treasure out of the hold, the Democrats are trying to put out fires in the rigging and retreating to the poop deck hoping it remains above water.

    And this is as I said another battle in the long war that led to the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights. The corporations are just the feudal kingdoms of old, abstracted away from geography and allowed to roam freely over the world, exploiting resources and then departing, leaving their wastes behind. The CEO is the king, the VPs are the dukes, and the workers are the peasantry. And this won’t get better until the population is so angry that it rises up and overthrows the aristocrats once again. Unfortunately such undirected revolutions most times lead to even more misery for quite a while.

    The bread and circuses of the Romans kept the population distracted while that empire collapsed. The modern propaganda media is infinitely more effective, and will keep the population distracted, confused, and divided for much, much longer. Rome took a long time to collapse, England took a long time to collapse, the USA is mightier and wealthier than either of those, and it too will take a long time to collapse.

    And meanwhile the timer is running. The poles are melting, the oceans are rising, the CO2 is building up in the atmosphere as temperatures get warmer. This is going to be a long, painful century full of misery and death and mass extinctions and war and loss. But at least we’ll have some great movies out of Disney to keep us entertained.

    Happy Holidays, everyone!

  26. Charlie permalink
    December 14, 2017

    The Gini for the US went from .43 in 2007 to .81 now. We probably have to see it to the end, but expect more elite infighting as they eat each other.

    “Me Too” is the perfect example of that, and Dems won’t go away from neoliberalism. They will continue to chum the scraps from the donors.

  27. different clue permalink
    December 14, 2017

    It still seems to me that we can think of self-identified “Democrats” as falling into two main groups . . . the Clintobamas and the Bernies. The Clintobamas pursue the same neo-liberal plan as before. The only way to prevent a Democratic Party “resurgence” from being a Clintobama resurgence is for every Bernie voter to vote against every Clintobama candidate at every opportunity so as to make every Clintobama lose every election every time. The goal is either to disinfect and decontaminate the Democratic Party if that is possible, or exterminate the Democratic Party if decontamination and disinfection is not possible.

    If every last Jonestown Clintie and Jonestown Obamie can be driven out of the Democratic Party and the Party can be made a Purity Party of nothing but Bernies, then the purified Democratic Party can become a New Deal Reactionary party and win or lose on that real agenda. It could be a first step toward a TAR United ( Trash of All Races United) lower class interest coalition hinted at in a prior comment up above.

    Hugh is exactly right about Greenspan’s intention for designing the Great Reagan Social Security Rescue of 1983. That doesn’t mean we have to accept that outcome passively. I have been pre-paying double on my FICA taxes ever since 1983 on the understanding that all that money would be trust-fund set-asided for my SS when I get too old to work. I will try very hard to see that I get my money. If every other double- prepayer determines to try the same, that is a big bunch of people with a shared social class interest right there.

    The Clintobama leadership will manipulate the primary process to produce a Clintobama candidate for PrezRun 2020. If that’s what they offer me, that’s what I will not vote for. If Mr./Ms. Clintobama 2020 is as monstrously evil as Hillary, or as smoothly con-game masterful as Barry Soetero, then I will vote for Trump all over again. If the DemParty nominee is just some pathetic Last Hurrah Nostalgia Trip like good old Hopeless Joe, then I will feel free to vote for the Democratic Socialists of America Party, or maybe the Working Families Party, or some other Third Party hopeful.

    But I have no instinct for compromise left with the Clintobamas.


    I want the whole loaf. NOW. Or no bread for anyone.

  28. realitychecker permalink
    December 14, 2017

    @ NR

    “Nah. The small-minded people are the ones who still believe in Steve Bannon.”

    I guess if Bannon’s status is your weathervane of things, your small mind must be full.

    Take your award and get it bronzed./s

    Maybe you can get a Mommy to read Albatross’ excellent comment to you.

    Education am good.

  29. December 14, 2017


    Still upset that Trump lost twice in the same race, I see. Get used to that feeling. You’re going to be experiencing it a lot more.

  30. Willy permalink
    December 14, 2017

    rc, please clearly explain your point. NR is giving you the courtesy. Ad hominem accomplishes little but to make one sound desperate.

  31. Willy permalink
    December 14, 2017

    Trump had a very populist economic plan in many ways, and has implemented virtually none of it beyond some minor moves on the trade front.

    The only possible reasons:

    1. Trump is covertly, helping set up the R establishment for a big fall.

    2. Trump is a willful idiot, unable to want to understand that his party’s policies are (mostly) contradicting his promises.

    3. Trump is a fucking liar. He doesn’t give a damn about populism or making America great. He planned this all along.

  32. Herman permalink
    December 14, 2017

    Re: Bannon, I would not count Bannon and his ideology out yet. Bannon’s style of politics is not well-suited to the South which I think explains why he failed in Alabama. It is much better suited to the Rust Belt where large numbers of angry downscale whites have a memory, living or received, of a better state of affairs when good manufacturing jobs were plentiful. Southern whites are not really the best anti-globalist constituency because they never really experienced the best days of the post-war consensus and arguably benefited from the collapse of Northern manufacturing as jobs moved down to the anti-labor Sunbelt.

    I would keep an eye on the 2018 special election for Franken’s old senate seat in Minnesota. Trump almost won Minnesota and I think a Bannon-style candidate could win there. Bannon just needs to groom better candidates than Moore who was extreme even for Alabama and was riddled with scandals. Religious zealots are not really the best Trump-Bannon candidates. You need Pat Buchanan-style candidates instead who talk about jobs and attack globalism.

  33. Willy permalink
    December 14, 2017

    If Franken swapped parties and went with Bannon he’d win? Of course he’d have to pay his dues on conservative media talking a buncha liberal smack, but is that the theory?

    On the serious, battles between Bernie progressives and Buchanan protectionist conservatives would be better than what we have today.

  34. different clue permalink
    December 14, 2017


    Bernies versus Buchies? That would be a Real two party system. Not like the Fake two party system we have today.

  35. paintedjaguar permalink
    December 15, 2017

    @ Bill the Boneheaded Peckerwood

    Ajit Pai, now FCC chair, was first appointed to the FCC in 2012 by moneygrubber-in-chief Barack Obama, supposedly at the recommendation of Mitch McConnell, and was confirmed by the majority Democrat Senate. Why don’t you inflict your neolib Clintonite garbage on some more credulous venue.

  36. Ché Pasa permalink
    December 15, 2017

    Eh? Because a previous regime did something, what the current regime does doesn’t matter? Or we should just accept it (“Lie back and think of England”) because Obomba and because Clintoon?

    The forgiveness and acceptance of the Trump regime’s depredations, bloodshed, and disastrous incompetence — because Obama, because Clinton — is the same sort of partisan/tribal garbage that defended the abominations of previous regimes of both parties. It’s insane to think that this sort of nonsense is going to or can lead to a better future. It won’t.

    No, it leads to where we are.

  37. December 15, 2017

    Herman – it is too bad people who have been involved in sports don’t frequent these types of blogs. Sometimes better teams lose, occasionally a great pitcher can have a bad inning, etc.. The Alabama election was pretty close just like the last presidential election. So don’t count out Bannon or the Hillary led DNC yet. Both have plenty of victories under there belts and have won more than they have lost.

    Too often political analysts are busy trying to find an inflection point – and sports people know that inflection points and changes of momentum are easiest to determine once the game if over. The Trump and Hillary games are far from over, so peoples tribal blindness shows up in using every event as important.

    Alabama was just a special election. I would guess in the next general election, in Alabam the Dem’s will lose big and Alabama will revert to type.

  38. Webstir permalink
    December 17, 2017

    So, you’re saying Lambert’s post was over your head. Got it. Thanks for playing.

  39. Tom Robinson permalink
    December 19, 2017

    I’m getting a little tired of the cynical progressive echo chamber here, and some half-ass thread that Trump is hardly worse than Obama. Now the Republican-led National Labor Relations Board has gutted a series of Obama labor refroms. The FCC is enforcing an oligarchic internet and press. And on the environment the Trump administration is reversing anything that favors the Earth.

    This is not the same, guys. This is way worse.

Comments are closed.