Gunning through the Blue Wall
Apart from demographics, the Democrats' presidential hopes in 2016 are centered on their "blue wall" – eighteen states with 240 electoral votes that they've won for a quarter-century. With that as their base, it's relatively simple for them to tack on another 30 electoral votes for a majority. But there are weaknesses in the wall, and it's not really blue.
Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, with 46 electoral votes among them, are among the weakest sections of the wall. Were it not for a disappointing turnout of working-class white men, Romney could have won any of them. All three state legislatures are firmly under Republican control, and all had Republican governors until a weak Republican incumbent in Pennsylvania was ousted last year. Wisconsin and Michigan have gone right to work. These are not blue states.
Whites vastly outnumber Hispanics in all of them, 82-6 in Pennsylvania, 79-5 in Michigan, and 87-6 in Wisconsin.* Adding blacks and Hispanics gives you 12% in Wisconsin, 17% in Pennsylvania, and 19% in Michigan. You don't need to be Nate Silver to figure it out. The white vote is key in all three.
And that means working-class whites in particular, the kind that cling to their guns and religion. In the spring and summer of 2012, the Democrats attacked Romney so successfully in these states that he was never able to recover. He was damaged goods, and people wouldn't give him a second look. They didn't like Obama, but they refused to vote for Romney.
I have, with great pleasure, watched Hillary go ballistic on gun control. I understand why. It's the one issue where she is legitimately to Sanders's left. It's also a tell. She has no intention of trying to reassemble her husband's electoral coalition. She'll win the way Obama did, or she won't win at all – with minorities, single women, gentry liberals, gays, Hollywood, trial lawyers, and unions. The gun-toting white working class is not needed.
She's well aware of the dangers in this strategy. B.J. "Billy Jeff" Clinton, who was in a position to know, says that gun control cost the Democrats the House of Representatives in '96 and the presidency in 2000. She apparently doesn't care. She's basically calling out the NRA – come and get me, if you can.
And oh, they will. NRA people (I'm a life member since '83) are single-issue voters. There are a whole lot of them in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. These guys like to hunt. Their dads taught them all about guns, and they teach their children. Firearms are family heirlooms and are passed down through the generations. Even if these guys are in a union, and don't care much for the Republicans, a whole lot of them will vote against Hillary on this one issue.
And it's not just in the Rust Belt. All across the country, blue-collar Democrats will abandon Hillary on this issue.
Of course, it's not just guns. Hillary sides with Black Lives Matter vs. the police. She's in a contest with Sanders to see who can be the greater champion of illegal immigration. Racial discrimination against whites and Asians, aka affirmative action, is one of Hillary's core values. There's no GOP war on women, but the progressive left wages war on straight white men every day. They notice.
And then there's the economy and wages. The white working class has seen an absolute decline in its living standards. Underemployment is rampant. We seem to be stuck at 2% annual GDP growth or less, which is half of what we need. Hillary and the Democrats offer no solutions except higher taxes and bigger government. The Republicans are the party of private-sector growth, which is where the good jobs come from. The white working class is better off under the Republicans and is beginning to realize it. Keystone was a tell.
White men are killing themselves in despair. No one defends them, speaks for them. They are objects of contempt and ridicule. They are marginalized under the regime of the Democrats. And they know it. Next year they'll have a chance to reassert themselves. The NRA will help drive them to the polls.
As will the instinct for self-preservation.
Fritz Pettyjohn is a former Alaska legislator and a co-founder of the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force. He blogs daily at ReaganProject.com