The stupefying Campaign 2016 is now history, but would putting it in some historical context help us understand it?
First, The horse-racing style “odds” established by The Ballenger Report were certified as being what odds frequently are — WRONG! In horse racing, the odds-on favorite in a multi-horse race actually wins only about a third of the time; if you pick him (or a filly) to finish “in the money” (win, place, or show), that happens only about two-thirds of the time. In politics, however, in a race with only two (practically speaking) entries, you can see how that might work.
So, last Tuesday, what happened? We paraphrase another online political newsletter by saying: “Those who depend on the crystal ball may wind up eating ground glass.” Predictions by pundits and pollsters everywhere —in Michigan and nationally — missed the target in spectacular fashion. Everybody should acknowledge that. Question is, was there anything more to what happened than just the Donald Trump victory (in Michigan and nationally). Well, yes, and here it is:
— This was a huge win for Michigan Republicans — not as YUGE as 1966, 1994 and 2010, but close, all the more so because it was unexpected. Not only did Donald Trump become the first GOP presidential nominee since 1988 to carry Michigan, but Republicans held onto their 9-5 R/D majority in the Congressional delegation with blowout wins in contests Democrats were counting on to be at least competitive. The GOP also managed to pull off the unfathomable — keep their 63-47 edge in the state House when everybody expected the party to lose seats if not the majority. Republicans also won five of the eight seats on the four state education boards (U-M, MSU, WSU and the State Board of Education), pulling into a 4-4 tie on MSU and the SBE. They also retained both of their Supreme Court justices — David Viviano and Joan Larsen — so that their 5-2 majority on the high bench stays in place.
— Trump swept 75 of Michigan’s 83 counties (only Wayne, Oakland, Washtenaw, Genesee, Ingham, Kalamazoo, Muskegon and Marquette went for Hillary Clinton), but his margin of victory in the popular vote was the slimmest of any presidential nominee in Michigan history. Ironically, the previous record for “close wins” was held by the only other presidential nominee who was a businessman with no political experience — Republican Wendell Willkie in 1940, the only man ever to carry Michigan against Franklin D. Roosevelt.
— At the local level, the GOP actually picked up 36 seats on county boards of commissioners in the aggregate statewide (out of 622 total), according to the Michigan Information & Research Service. Republicans now control 63 of the 83 county boards, Democrats only 19 (Keweenaw is tied). The GOP took over boards in Arenac, Isabella and Lake counties, while Democrats flipped Clare to their advantage.
— Looking ahead, 2017-18 will be the first time a single political party has controlled all three legs of the “3-legged stool” (the governorship and both chambers of the legislature) for EIGHT STRAIGHT YEARS since 1932 — 84 years ago. From 1917-1933, Republicans during that time controlled both houses under four successive Republican governors, but right now is the first time a single governor — Rick Snyder — will have enjoyed such an advantage in all of Michigan history dating back to when we became a state in 1837. Michigan is one of 25 states where the GOP controls the entire “stool.” By contrast, Democrats possess only five stools.