If national polls are to be believed, a substantial majority of Republican voters don’t believe President Biden was legitimately elected and that the presidency was in some way “stolen” from Donald Trump. As a Trump supporter, I would like to believe that. Unfortunately, I can’t find the evidence. And I’ve looked.
The Maricopa County audit overseen by Republican officials ended up giving Biden several hundred more votes than he got on election day. Reviews in other states overseen by Republican governors and legislatures have failed to turn up significant evidence of fraud. As we enter the 2022 election year, it’s important to understand why Trump lost in 2020. We can’t afford to make the same mistakes again.
In the summer of 2015, I was an Arizona delegate to the National Convention of the American Federation of Republican Assemblies (AFRA) in Nashville where I heard Donald Trump speak for the first time. It was a command performance—a forerunner of what became his trademark ‘rally’ speech. What Trump did that day was unlike any politician I’ve ever heard.
He spoke for an hour, without notes, in a relaxed, natural, conversational style. He struck chords of populism and nationalism. He mocked the media and the feckless Republican establishment. He said “out loud” what no other presidential candidate had ever said before—America is in decline. Our leaders have sold us out. He touched on all the familiar themes—bad trade deals outsourced jobs and manufacturing, endless foreign wars, third world immigration, an overreaching federal bureaucracy—and how they were destroying the prosperity and heritage of our country. He promised to put America First and Make America Great Again. He came across as authentic. He was a truth teller. It’s been a rocky road with Donald Trump, but my faith in his political mission has held strong.
A few months after my first encounter with Trump, I got a call from former State Senator Thayer Verschoor, who had also been a delegate at the AFRA convention and was now helping Team Trump prepare for the upcoming Arizona Republican primary. He asked if I would help put together a Trump for President committee in Yavapai County. I was honored to be asked.
My first thought was to enlist the help of longtime Republican activist, Brenda Dickinson– now a member of the Prescott Valley Town Council. Brenda and I put together the names of 15 potential Trump supporters and invited them to an organizational meeting at my hotel, the former Comfort Inn in Prescott. I had just announced for the state legislature and was putting together my own campaign. We unanimously selected Brenda as our Chair. She went on to build the most successful Trump committee in Arizona. In our March 22nd Presidential Primary, Trump swept Yavapai County and the state.
In 2016, for the fifth time in our nation’s history, the candidate for president who did not receive a majority of the popular vote won the election. The same thing happened 16 years earlier when George Bush defeated Al Gore. Gore won the popular vote. Bush won the Electoral College.
Losing the popular vote but winning the Electoral College has given Republicans a false sense of security in national elections. It allows us to ignore the awkward fact that the majority of our countrymen voted for someone else. As long as Republicans can cobble together enough votes to win the Electoral College, we can pretend we are still in control.
A quick review of what happened in 2016 exposes our weakness. Hillary Clinton got 51.1% of the popular vote to 48.9% for Donald Trump. But Trump got 304 electoral college votes to Clinton’s 227—a difference of 77 votes. These 77 electoral college votes came from just five states– Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—all states that Trump won in 2016 but lost in 2020. Drilling down a bit into the actual margins of victory, Michigan’s 20 electoral votes went to Trump by 10,704 votes, Pennsylvania’s by 44,,292, Wisconsin’s by 22,747. The margins in Georgia and Arizona were bigger. But Trump’s win in these five key states which secured his victory rested on just 400,000 votes out of a total of 130 million votes cast—a margin of victory of less than .3%. The popular vote went to Hilary Clinton by nearly three million votes.
A similar pattern emerges from the 2020 election. Once again, the Democrat won the popular vote with Biden at 51.3% to Trump’s 46.8%—a spread of over 4 million votes. But this time Trump narrowly lost the five key states he won in 2016. Let’s call the roll from the official canvas: Arizona down 10,457, Georgia down 11,779, Michigan down 154,188, Pennsylvania down 80,555, and Wisconsin down 20,682 votes. Trump lost these five key states by less than 300,000 votes—an even smaller number than his margin of victory in 2016.
Why was Trump unable to build on his 2016 winning strategy in 2020? He was well funded and had the advantage of incumbency. Exit polls showed that he gained with every racial and ethnic voting block–except the one that counted most. His share of the white vote declined by six percentage points from 2016 to 2020.
I saw most of Trump’s 2020 rallies, six of which were in Arizona. Within the first 20 minutes of every rally, Trump talked about the economy and what he had done for minorities, e.g.. higher black employment numbers, higher Hispanic home ownership rates, more minorities in college, and so on. And it was all true. America First policies were working for everyone. But how did this actually translate into votes? As a group, blacks rewarded Trump with 12% of their vote compared to 87% for Biden. For Hispanics the vote was 59% for Biden, 38% for Trump. For Asians, who are now the most highly educated and affluent demographic in America, 63% went for Biden, 31% for Trump.
Although Trump did get a higher percentage of minority votes in 2020 compared to 2016, he came nowhere near winning a majority of any minority group. For as long as we have records, we know that race and ethnicity are the best predictors of how minorities vote. They transcend every other social and economic factor. This is a hard truth for many Republicans.
Here is an anecdote that explains the deep confusion and denial at the top levels of the Republican party. In the aftermath of Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss to Barrack Obama, Arizona Republican State Chair, Robert Graham, came to Prescott to tell a meeting of the Republican Men’s Forum about his outreach to minorities. He claimed that the Republican party was too white and we needed to be more inclusive. He said that blacks, in particular, with their strong family values, high rates of church attendance and innate patriotism, were natural conservatives and ripe for conversion to the Republican Party.
At that time, blacks were less than 5% of the state population and overwhelmingly Democrat in party registration. Arizona’s white population was over 70 percent. In percentage terms, it would take many times the number of blacks to vote Republican to equal a 1% increase in the white Republican vote. So I asked Mr. Graham the obvious question, “Sir, given that there are many more white voters than black voters in Arizona, have you ever considered reaching out for the white vote?” There was an awkward silence as the blood drained from his face. He stammered incomprehensibly. It was clear that for the Republican establishment, it’s OK to talk about recruiting minorities, but bad manners to talk about increasing the white vote.
According to the 2020 US Census, high levels of non white immigration and a low white birth rate has shrunk the white population to 57.8% of the total. This reflects a decline from 70.4% in 2000 and 80.3% as recently as 1990. But because non citizens are included in the US Census, the voting population remains roughly 70% white—enough to win elections in most states.
None of this is to suggest that the Republican party is a political party for whites only. Since its founding in 1854 as the anti-slavery party, the Republican party has welcomed blacks and people of all races. A political party represents a set of ideas and values. It is not a racial grouping. Fundamental to the Republican philosophy of government is a belief in personal freedom, limited government and equality before the law.
There are black Republicans today who can trace their family roots to the founding generation of Republicans. But it would be naïve to think that race is not an issue in American politics. Powerful forces in the media and academia are pushing virulent anti-white racism thru Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project. President Biden and many prominent Democrats have openly embraced these ideas.
Trump himself and his diehard supporters cling to the idea that the election was stolen. But election irregularities were not widespread enough to explain Trump’s loss. For Trump’s supporters to say that the election was stolen is simply mistaken. Or worse, it’s a form of willful blindness rooted in the denial of a truth too painful to accept.
I am writing about this because to deny reality is dangerous. Success in politics is no different than any other kind of success. It begins with clear thinking and a firm grasp on reality. Voter fraud is a distraction. It’s a form of denial. Don’t look here, look over there. For Republicans to cling to the myth of a stolen election puts future elections at risk.
The evidence shows that Trump lost because he didn’t get enough votes. He listened to the wrong people and watered down his message. This cost him white, working class voters in key states. Let’s not make that mistake again.