Republicans and Democrats are Different

One of the recurring sentiments in the discussion of US politics is the notion of the “Republicrat,” this idea that there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats. I’ve hated this idea for a very, very long time. We can score this thing and every time we do, we find pretty stark differences between Republican and Democrat public statements and Republican and Democrat votes.

Trump proposes a new challenge. He is not a Republican. He’s a conservative nationalist. For the most part, those with conservative nationalist tendencies have been in the Republican party, have voted Republican, run as Republicans etc. But they are not particularly well-aligned with the party’s leadership. So it remains an open question where Trump’s coalition will be found.

538 tackles this question with some quick back of the envelope scoring. Good article. Simple methodology. It’s got issues. One major problem is that one thing is pretty clear, even from this read and that’s that it matters which issue is under discussion to really determine the for- and against coalitions. Silver is aware of this issue. He makes it clear he’s looking for aggregate affinities. This just gives us a general picture of the possible coalition-building space.

I want to focus on the partisan divide. Even with this index score, it becomes clear that most Republican senators are closer to Trump than almost all of the Democrats. There is a space where 5 Republicans and 6 Democrats share a space near the middle. The remaining 89% of Senators fall on different sides of the spectrum. And Trump’s coalition is squarely among Republicans.


In traditional measure of partisanship using votes, Collins (ME) and McCain (AZ) regularly fall to the left of the median Republican. And I don’t think McCaskill (MO), Warner (VA), and Donnelly (IN) will surprise anyone as being to the right of the median Democrat. The others? Maybe?

I’ve already assumed that McCain will be a loud voice against Trump and this confirms that his discontent with the president elect exists in more areas than just torture and Russia. I also thought Paul since he’s already been pretty outspoken on some of Trump’s picks (Bolton). So it seems clear to me that those two represent the definite end of his coalition space and it could extend deeper into the Republican party.

So There is a question of which Democrats might jump ship to join him. If Paul-McCain is the actual boundary (4.8), that only leaves Campbell as a potential frequent cross-party-lines Trump voter. (538 thinks Campbell will lose to his run-off challenger Kennedy anyway–both Kennedy and Campbell were scored by 538). Depending on the issue, Warner, Donnelly and Manchin are possible, but unlikely supporters that will need extra convincing–especially Donnelly since he won’t be doing himself any favors in Indiana voting with in-state rival ex-governor and now VP-elect Mike Pence. Collins is running pretty deep into blue team territory (the northeast is weird).