By Joe Guzzardi
August 1, 2016
The year-long primary season proved one thing. The pundits, pollsters, and experts were wrong. They were wrong about Donald Trump right up to the last, and they were wrong about Bernie Sanders, a dark horse candidate that dogged Hillary Clinton to the end before he finally came up short.
Trump has a fascinating political history. According to registration records journalist Jonathan Rauch, cited in his Atlantic article titled “How American Politics Went Insane,” since 1987 Donald Trump has been a Republican, then an independent, then a Democrat, then a Republican, then “I do not wish to enroll in a party,” then a Republican. The GOP nominee has donated to both parties, but shown neither loyalty nor affinity for either.
Now that Trump and Clinton have sewn up the nominations, the analysts are back at it again, discounting the prevailing sense of rebellion and disgust rampant in the American electorate, and instead confidently predicting that Clinton or Trump is ahead in one state or another, some of which are deemed to be solidly red or irreversibly blue.
California is a great example of a state analysts consider to be a lock for Democrats. A Public Policy Institute Poll released last week showed Clinton with a solid 46-30 lead over Trump. During the last quarter of a century, Democratic candidates have won California in most races for the U.S. Congress and the White House. But growing frustration with political failure on California’s big issues—illegal immigration, hurtful trade deals like NAFTA that cost state workers thousands of jobs, and expanding income inequality—have effected voter registration trends. New registration totals hint that there may be a break in the Democratic dominance that’s prevailed since 1992 when Pete Wilson was the state’s Republican governor. Arnold Schwarzenegger was an aberration—a celebrity Republican swept into office on the heels of the 2003 Gray Davis recall election.
The statistics tell an interesting story. Overall, 24.3 million people are eligible to vote in California, and 17.6 million, about 72.7 percent, have registered, a modest increase of 641,801 total voters over September 2010, when 72.2 percent were registered. But increasingly, when Californians sign up to vote, they reject both major parties. According to an earlier PPIC report, Independents who decline to state a party affiliation currently comprise about 25 percent of the state’s registered voters. The state’s total percentages of both Democrats and Republicans are in decline. Among those who self-identify as Independents, the PPIC report noted that nearly 40 percent view themselves as ideologically in the middle of the road, 29 percent as liberal, and 33 percent as conservative.
While California is perceived as solidly liberal, 31 of its 58 counties have Republican majorities. Los Angeles County, however, has 4.9 million registered voters, the largest of any county, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 2-1.
In short, California may not be the liberal bastion that the media portrays it to be. And there’s another variable that can’t be predicted: what happens in the privacy of the voting booth where people, regardless of what they may have told pollsters, will vote as their consciences dictate.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19