You've heard of the gender gap in politics. And the education gap. But a new survey of more than 4,000 Washingtonians who voted Tuesday finds the widest of all is the religion gap — and helps explain why the Republican Party has ceased to exist in King County.
Now that more votes have been counted, it has become clear that the Republican Party was completely wiped out of existence in King County this past week.
This has been building for years. But Tuesday’s election made it complete. The blue wave turned out to be big but a slow roller, and now the Grand Old Party has been washed entirely out of the state’s most populous and fastest-growing county.
The questions now are: Why? What happened to them? And can they ever make it back?
I won’t dwell much on the most immediate cause, because it ought to be obvious to all. The cancer at the top metastasized down rapidly to kill the party almost completely in the nation’s suburbs.
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Since Donald Trump rode down that golden escalator, the GOP in King County has lost four state Senate seats, five state House seats and now a congressional seat, the 8th, that just a few years ago was seen as a safe Republican district.
There’s not a GOP elected official left in any King County district. The only Republicans left who live in the county are three state legislators way down in the southeast corner, around Enumclaw and Auburn. But most of that district, the 31st, is in Pierce County.
There also are three Republicans left on the King County Council, though that entire body was reclassified as “nonpartisan” a few years back (if it hadn’t been, those three could easily be gone now as well). The sole countywide elected Republican, Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, forecast all this carnage and announced earlier this year he was switching to the Democrats.
An “exit poll” of Washington state Tuesday — actually a phone and online survey of 4,368 residents by the University of Chicago, AP and Fox — shows that Trump is poison to Republicans here. His approval rating statewide is 25 points underwater. So one can only imagine how abysmal it is in the suburbs.
Why local Republicans don’t speak out against Trump is a mystery. He cut an ad in the final weeks of the campaign that was so racist the networks pulled it, including Fox. But I didn’t hear a peep of critique from local Republicans.
Of course Trump won’t be around forever (praying on that one, and I’m an atheist). But the exit poll, which is a more deliberative survey of more voters than the old-style exit polls, offers a host of other insights into who we are as voters — and why the GOP is kaput.
There’s been coverage of both the gender gap and education gap — and both definitely are widening here. State female voters favored Democrats by 20 points more than male voters did. While the “college, noncollege” gap was plus 22 points for the Democrats.
But there’s another gap that’s having an even more profound effect on local elections: the “religion gap.” The exit survey shows that the core base of the GOP — white evangelical or born-again Christians — now make up only 18 percent of the Washington electorate. While the rarely talked-about “Nones” — those who don’t identify with any religious tradition — have soared to twice that, 35 percent of all voters in the state.
I’m a None, so I’ve deputized myself to speak for them. Nones may believe in God, or not. But they’re fed up with the influence of institutionalized religion, especially as it seeps into what is supposed to be a secular government. As an outgrowth of that, the Nones don’t trust government to police personal morality, are highly suspicious of any God talk by politicians or Supreme Court nominees, are strongly pro-science, and tend to be overwhelmingly socially liberal even as some may be fiscally conservative.
Here’s the clincher: The Nones voted Democratic by an enormous 51-point margin in Washington state Tuesday. White evangelicals voted plus 51 for Republicans. But the math for the GOP doesn’t pencil — not only are there now twice as many Nones, it’s also by far the fastest-growing religious group in the state, up 84 percent in 10 years, based on exit polls from 2008.
It may not be long before you can call us Nones the “Amoral Majority.” “Enormous but invisible” is how The Washington Post put it about Nones on the national scene, where they now make up 21 percent of the electorate.
Whatever you call them, in statewide elections or in the Seattle suburbs, either appeal to the Nones or forget it.
This doesn’t mean candidates have to be progressive liberals, the exit poll showed. Two examples: Statewide voters said by 30 points, 64 to 34 percent, that there’s “too much pressure to be politically correct.” Voters also said they’re against a state income tax by a whopping 60 points, 79 to 19 percent. There’s room for smart fiscal moderates who don’t thump the Bible. But it may take years to repair the wreckage from Trump.
This is a generational realignment of who we are and our politics. As a result, the prescription for bringing the GOP back from the dead around here is daunting: Dump Trump. And dump God from politics.
Admittedly not so easy, either one. So I recommend getting started right away.