The 2017 Election

Democrats had run away victories in the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. In New Jersey, Phil Murphy–in his first run for public office–was easily elected governor. In Virginia, Lt. Governor Ralph Northam handily won the governorship.

Leading up to this election, Republicans controlled the Virginia House of Delegates 66-34. With a little bit of luck in some recounts, the post-election split may be 50/50. Of the 15 seats that Democrats flipped, all were held by men and 11 were won by women.

In New Jersey, Democrats retained control of the state legislature and may have picked up some seats.

By a 2-1 margin, Virginia voters said they were casting their ballot to show opposition to Trump rather than support for him. In New Jersey the margin was nearly 3-1.

Trump’s weak approval rating among voters in Virginia, 40 percent, was weaker still in New Jersey, a dismal 34 percent. [Exit polls]

Those 18-29 years of age voted for Northham by +39. This compares to the +18 who went for Clinton and the +5 who went for McCauliffe in 2013.

In Virginia, Danica Roem, a transgender woman, was elected to the House of Delegates. She is the first openly transgender person elected to be a member of a state legislature. She defeated a 25 year Republican incumbent who can best be described as homophobic.

In Minneapolis, Andrea Jenkins is the first openly transgender woman of color elected to the city council of a major U.S. city.

Jenny Durkan will become the first openly lesbian mayor of Seattle.

64% of Americans believe that the current political system in the United States is basically dysfunctional. 35% would not agree with this assessment.

71% believe that the problems in American politics right now have reached a dangerous low point.

How much do you blame each of the following for the dysfunction in the political system?

  A lot Some Total
Money in politics 65% 31% 96%
Wealthy political donors 56% 38% 94%
Donald Trump 51% 38% 89%
Social media 49% 44% 93%
The News media 49% 39% 88%
Members of Congress 47% 47% 94%
Liberal activists 40% 47% 87%
Republican Party 38% 53% 91%
Democratic Party 32% 54% 86%
Conservative activists 30% 52% 82%
Barack Obama 25% 38% 63%
Average voters 19% 55% 74%
Washington Post/University of Maryland, 10/5/17

82% of Americans believe that either their families have achieved the American dream or are on their way to achieving it. 36% have already achieved it and 46% are on their way to achieving it. Those who say they have already achieved it are 41% White, 32% Hispanic and 17% Black. Among those who say they are on their way to achieving the American dream 62% are Black, 51% are Hispanic and 42% White.

What are the most essential elements of the average person’s view of the American dream?

Freedom of choice on how to live 77%
Have a good family life 70%
Retire comfortably 60%
Make valuable contributions to the community 48%
Own a home 43%
Have a successful career 43%
Become wealthy 11%
[PEW, 8/21/17]

For the moment there is at least one other area in which majorities from both political parties are in agreement: certain aspects of gun control.

Overall, 79% of Americans (58% strongly) favor banning assault weapons.
This point of view includes 70% of Republicans (48% strongly); 76% of Independents (45% strongly) and 91% of Democrats (74% strongly).

8 of 10 respondents support a federal database to track all gun sales.
83% favor (62% strongly) banning so-called “bump stocks” that allow rifles to fire like automatic weapons.

On the other hand, 53% of the public at large (28% strongly) believes that “the benefits of gun ownership” outweigh the risks. That group includes 72% of Republicans (28% strongly) and 62% of Independents (28% strongly). However, only 32% of Democrats (11% strongly) have that point of view. [NPR/Ipsos, 10/11/17]

The percentage of U.S. households with guns has fallen from 47.3% to 31% from 1980 to 2014 but the number of guns in each of the gun owning households has doubled from four to eight over that 34 year period.

Year Total households % of households owning guns Households owning guns % of households now owning guns
1980 80,780,000 47.3% 38,200,000 51.8%
1990 93,350,000 42.2% 39,390,000 56.7%
2000 104,701,000 32.4% 33,920,000 66.1%
2010 118,680,000 31.1% 36,910.000 65.0%
2014 123,230,000 31% 38,200,000 65.7%
[Percentages from Axios, 10/3/17. Numbers of households calculated by WW]

Americans use 500 million plastic straws each day. Placed end to end they wrap the circumference of the earth 2.5 million times. They would fill 125 school buses every day. They weigh roughly as much as 1,000 automobiles. [National Park Service]

Depending on who you choose to include there are either roughly 7 million or 9 million Americans in the federal work force. If you combine the 2 million federal employees, 3.7 million contractors, and 1.6 million grant employees, you get the 7 million figure. Additionally, if you include the 1.3 million active duty military personnel and 500,000 postal workers, you end up with 9 million. [Paul Light, Washington Post, 10/3/17]

An increasing number of adults, particularly young adults, are living without a spouse or partner. Over the last ten years the number has grown from 39% to 42%. [PEW, 10/10/17]

If current “trends” continue, sometime before the year 2050, white people will no longer represent the majority racial/ethnic group in the United States.

  2010 2050
White 66.3% 47%
Hispanic 16.3 29
Black 12.6 13
Asian 4.8 9

The 2050 projections are based on the continuing arrival of immigrants at the same rate in which they have been arriving for the last several decades. It is quite possible that the attitudes toward immigration being expressed by the President and his administration may interrupt the current trends.

[2010 data, U.S. Census Bureau; 2050 projection, Pew Research Center]

142 people die each day in the United States as a result of an opioid overdose. [MSNBC, 11/2/17]

The Washington Post published a column by Michael Gerson on November 7th entitled, “Our political parties are in crisis.” The column included the two paragraphs below which make a particularly timely point.

“We have reached a moment of intellectual and moral exhaustion for both major political parties. One is dominated by ethnic politics – which a disturbing strong majority of Republican regulars have found appealing or acceptable. The other is dominated by identity politics – a movement that counts a growing number of Robespierres. Both seem united only in their resentment of the international economic order that the United States has built and led for 70 years.

“The lead ideology of the Republican Party at the national level is now immoral and must be overturned – a task that only a smattering of retiring officeholders has undertaken. The lead ideology of the Democratic Party is likely to be overturned – by radicals with little to offer the country save anger and bad economics.”