Here’s an election shocker: Donald Trump did a bit better in King County in 2020 than he did the first time he ran four years ago.
They’re still counting votes, but so far, Trump got 50,000 more people to back him in the bluest county in the state than he did in 2016.
Trump also is carrying a slightly higher percentage of both the county and the statewide vote, up about 0.5 percent from his share in 2016.
Don’t take me wrong, Trump got slaughtered in King County. He’s losing to Democrat Joe Biden here by 53 percentage points — or by more than 630,000 total votes. But his ability to run slightly stronger even in the belly of the resistance shows how deeply the partisan divides have taken root.
Trump also did just as well in Seattle as he did in 2016, drawing about 8% of the city’s vote, according to preliminary precinct data released by King County.
Biden won almost everywhere in King County, save for the southeast “Trump country” corner, where the president is once again carrying Enumclaw, by 51% to 46%.
These results suggest that four years of Trump’s tumultuous presidency incredibly didn’t change the minds of practically anybody.
Here’s just one example of that: Trump’s best result in Seattle this year was in the Broadmoor gated community in Madison Park. He lost the area, but has so far racked up 151 votes (out of 547 cast). Four years ago though, in this same precinct, Trump tallied … 152 votes. Could it be that after all that’s gone on and all that’s been said about Trump, only one person in the neighborhood changed his or her mind?
Biden is drawing slightly more votes in Broadmoor than Hillary Clinton got the last time. That seems to be because the ballots cast for third party or write-in candidates has dropped from 66 in 2016 to just 12 this time around.
I bring up this one precinct because there’s the same trend across the city, the county, the state and the nation: Despite polls showing Trump trailing, he actually did the same or slightly better than he did in 2016 in terms of share of the total vote. Meanwhile Biden did a few points better than Clinton. Both Trump and Biden benefited from much higher turnout, but the key was that Biden also picked up most of the vote share that had gone to third-party “spoiler” candidates in 2016.
This is a crucial point that maybe hasn’t gotten enough attention. The main way Trump was able to win in 2016, despite drawing only 46.7% of the popular vote, was because of third-party candidates. In this state, third-party candidates took 7% of the total vote in 2016. This year they’re drawing only 3% — with most of that 4% difference shifting to Biden.
This was repeated elsewhere, such as in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, allowing Biden to flip those key states back to blue.
All of this means Trump’s election in 2016 was essentially a fluke. It was an anomaly enabled by two main things. One, a slice of never-Trump GOPers couldn’t bear to vote for Clinton and so backed a libertarian candidate. And two, a slice of purity progressives on the left were mad because Bernie Sanders lost and so went around the country rallying not against Trump, but against Clinton (hello, Kshama Sawant!).
“Progressives should not support Clinton,” Sawant said back in 2016, after holding an anti-Clinton rally in swing-state Philadelphia. It’s a “false choice between a corporate Democrat and a yet more horrifying Republican.”
Sawant re-upped this general critique against Biden — she called it “historically unfortunate” that Sanders had endorsed Biden. But unlike in 2016, she and other Sandersnistas never went after Biden with much vigor (and Bernie himself backed Biden early and enthusiastically). The Green Party candidates never got traction. Voilà, that’s about all it took: Trump is defeated, despite strong Republican voter turnout.
It will be a relief to see Trump leave, at least for people like me who feel he’s a toxic con artist who never should have been leading the country. But the conditions of his defeat are not exactly inspiring. Yes it’s the end of an error, a critical righting of a historic wrong, buoyed by gratifyingly strong turnout. But 72 million voters were fine with continuing it. Trump got a quarter-million more votes statewide in Washington than any GOP presidential candidate ever has. Even in deep blue King County, 50,000 more voters said “yeah, sure, put us down for four more years of that.”
Already now, the progressives and the mainline Democrats have set aside their Trump truce to start tearing each other apart like it’s 2016. While the Republicans shamelessly are pretending the election was “stolen.” It’s a transparent bid by Trump, no longer POTUS but POUTUS, to grift some last dollars to pay his campaign debts. It’s all being cynically boosted by GOP leaders as a political organizing effort; gotta keep those fires of grievance burning.
It sure feels like even though Trump is on his way out, nobody is acting like Trumpism is going away with him.