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What power do independent voters have over Trump?

Jan 10


Independent voters have traditionally voted against the incumbent party or politician. In the wake of Trump’s presidency and the Jan. 6 insurrection, however, they flocked towards the Democratic Party and handed a major upset to the Republicans in 2022. With Donald Trump the clear GOP frontrunner, how will independent voters behave in the upcoming 2024 elections?

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan analyzes the history and thinking of independent voters in order to best answer that question. In the end, Zeihan believes, it does not look promising for Donald Trump.

The following is an excerpt from Peter’s Jan. 10 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

No proper discussion of American politics is complete without mentioning the Independents. While their voting patterns have been historically predictable, Trump has Independents shaking things up a bit.

I expect Independents to favor anti-Trump candidates this election cycle, and remember that those polls placing Trump way out in front aren’t accounting for the Independent voters. If this plays out how I think it will, Trump will have led his party through a hefty series of defeats…and some big changes will soon follow.

So, all those factions in the Republican Party will have to do a little soul-searching and come up with a post-Trump strategy. Republicans 55 and younger will be looking toward what’s next, but we’ll have to wait and see if it’s a centrist movement, an entirely new party or a new coalition.

Hey everybody, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from my COVID prison, also known as the home office. And we’re gonna close out our three parter on the upcoming elections with a discussion of the forgotten middle child of American politics, the Independents, and how they are going to be determining the outcome of this race and how they’ve really already made up their mind. The key thing to remember about Independents is that they’re not part of the rest of the process. And as a result, they feel a little annoyed, a little left out. And they keep getting presented with this binary choice between two horrible candidates. And they have to plug their nose and vote for someone. However, they don’t do it in the way that you might imagine that a normal balancing factor would, where they look at all the pros and look at all the cons and talk about it among themselves. And until they have a very knee-jerk reaction is very predictable. They’re flighty. They have buyer’s remorse, and they almost always vote against whoever they voted for the last time. And it goes pretty much like clockwork. So they voted to put Obama into the office, and they voted to bring him out of the office when it was up for reelection. The same happened for Bush. The same happened for Trump. They voted him in because he wasn’t Obama. And then they voted against him because he was Trump. And they’ve done this over and over and over over throughout American history. And it’s one of the reasons why you usually see really big swings in the midterm election, where the ruling party tends to lose a lot of seats in Congress. Well, that didn’t happen this last time where we got to the 2021 elections.


The Independents on their exit polling indicated that they really disliked Biden, specifically his economic policies, and very specifically that those economic policies were very bad for Independents in general. And yet, and yet, and yet, and yet, instead of generating the red wave, which history suggests happens almost every single time, or sorry, the opposition wave, they instead voted to keep the Democrats in the majority in the Senate. And they handed the Republicans the smallest majority they have ever seen in the last 180 years in the House. Since then, the Republicans have managed to whittle that down even further because they rejected a guy who was using campaign funds to pay for porn and the Republican, the far right if you want to call it that, the populist right, the MAGA right, cause such a ruckus within the Republican caucus within the Congress, that they basically ejected their own speaker. They didn’t just get McCarthy out of the speakership, they convinced him to quit Congress altogether, shrinking the majority even more. Now, why did this happen? Well, it comes down to Donald Trump, Donald Trump’s position in that the January 6 protests were about the real democracy, the idea that the election was stolen from him, even though there’s absolutely no facts at all that have supported that. And we now have almost every candidate who’s even running for president against him on the Republican side. Now saying that publicly, remember, not a single court case was won, no, no cases of voter fraud were found, and all that resonates with Independents, [it] just doesn’t resonate with MAGA and Trump. What Trump is basically telling the Independents is that the general election doesn’t matter. And all the decisions that should be made on American leadership should be made at the caucus in the primary level where he will dominate. And that means if you are an Independent, you don’t have a voice. And they’re like, the hell I don’t. And so they showed up for midterm sometime in Orlando. And they voted against their own perceived best economic interests to vote in candidates who were anti-Trump. So they’ve broken with the pattern that has held true for the last several decades.


And since Donald Trump hasn’t changed his tune on what went down in his general election, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the Independents are not going to either. Let me give you an idea of how this is going to play out. This map here is what will happen if the Independents split their vote evenly among the Democratic and the Republican coalition candidates. So Biden Trump, you’ll notice that if you add up those numbers, you can see in the bottom left, how it breaks down, that the Republicans need to swing a fair number of Independents. So a 50-50 split doesn’t work for them. They need to garner at least two thirds, preferably three quarters of the Independents in order to switch a lot of these purple states to red.


That’s not what we’re going to see. More likely what we’re going to see is a repeat of what happened in the 2022 by elections is going to replicate itself in the 2024 general elections. And that’s something more like the second map, where the Independents brief two to one in favor of anti-Trump candidates, in favor Democratic candidates. And if this is what goes down, Donald Trump will be leading his party to the second or third greatest electoral defeat in American history.


Now, you may say, Well, that’s not what the polls are saying. The polls are saying that Joe Biden is so unpopular, that Trump is actually trending towards a direct victory in a lot of states. Keep in mind, Independents don’t participate in polls, and certainly not a year ahead of time. And he pulled it as further out than two or three months from the election is probably crap anyway, but one in which the Independents have no vested interest in playing.


So I would just kind of toss that out to the side. What happens after is what’s going to get really interesting here. So what do you watch for moving forward? Well, you got to watch the people.


If you consider that folks from the national security in the business community, and the fiscal conservatives really have never been warmed to Trump, in fact, many of them have campaigned against Trump and vice versa. If you look at the world, from their point of view, when Trump leads the Republicans to a defeat in his next election, it will be five electoral cycles since they have had one of their people in the White House, that has got to trigger some soul searching and some assessment as to what’s next. And if we’re going to get a split in either party, it is probably going to be the Republicans, and it is probably going to be because of this legacy of defeat. And that will most likely lead them to break away and do something else. Some may become Democrats, some may form a new centrist party suddenly leaves a direct rebellion against Trumpism. But those are the people who have the agency and the most reason to seek something out. Now, folks like Mitt Romney have decided to withdraw from the fight and leave it to the next generation. So we’re going to be looking for people predominantly under age 55, who are trying to find a new way to function in this sort of environment, because the alternative is to simply never be in power again. And if there’s one thing I know about politicians, that is never the goal.


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