Blame the Green Bay Packers for Trump?
It makes more sense than you think.
There’s still much hand wringing and speculation over the how and why Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America. Let that sink in. Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America.
A vast majority of pundits and major media outlets had all but declared victory for Hillary Clinton. On November 8th before the polls closed, the Huffington Post predicted Clinton’s assured victory at a 98.2 percent probability. The New York Times gave Clinton the same odds of winning as an “NFL kicker making a thirty-seven-yard field goal”: 85 percent. The Washington post gave Clinton a 75 percent chance of victory and even Nate Silver, renowned guru of election predictions of the FiveThirtyEight, who had predicted the outcome of 49 of 50 states in the 2008 presidential election, and 50 out of 50 in 2012, gave Clinton a 71.4 percent chance to win over Trump.
So, what happened? What factor did every major media outlet overlook?
I was a GOP strategist for the past 20 years who left the party over the rise of Donald Trump, so my query has been professionally motivated.
I’ve been analyzing the election results in-depth, specifically in Wisconsin where there really is no historical, statistical reasoning for the outcome. I looked at specific non-political events such as potential terrorist threats, crime spikes, anything in the news that might cause discontent in the state leading up to the election. I even looked at weather patterns over the last fifty years to see if there was any anomaly that was consistent in presidential election years. There wasn’t. Hot and humid in the summer and then it’s cold and snows quite a bit in the winter.
Then, it struck me. Could it be the Green Bay Packers?
Full disclosure: I confess that I’ve been a Green Bay Packers fan since the age of three. It began with Bart Starr in the ’60s and early ’70s. It continued through the drought years of the ’80s … through Brett Favre and on to Aaron Rodgers. I have Packer slippers, coffee cups, there’s a Packers gnome in my front yard (much to my wife’s dismay). I have an entire closet dedicated to my jerseys. I am also a proud shareholder. I don’t miss a game. I don’t miss a single play.
I share this fanaticism with the vast majority of Wisconsinites. The Packers win, we are joyful. The Packers lose, we are angry and sad and mournful.
It sounds ridiculous that a football team could affect the outcome of a presidential race.
Or does it?
The most astounding losses for Clinton occurred among the likely “blue” states in the mid-west and in the rust belt of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Nate Silver’s infallible FiveThirtyEight election-day prediction gave Clinton a 77.4 percent chance of winning Pennsylvania, an 80.3 percent chance in Michigan and a whopping 84.1 percent shot in Wisconsin.
Post election media outlets and pundits offered a cornucopia of reasons why they were so far off, especially in Michigan and Pennsylvania. They gazed downward across the vast wasteland of middle America from ivory towers in Los Angeles and New York, and saw:
- racism fueled by the racist rhetoric of Trump;
- sexism fueled by the fact that Clinton was female; and
- an often-referenced “uneducated white middle class” anger caused by a declining economy, unemployment and a poor quality of life that these misguided souls had been living under for decades.
This demographic, as the narrative goes, had been promised hope and change for the last eight years, but had seen neither. Their communities were crumbling; their unions hadn’t protected them. They used to have mullets. Their politicians had turned their backs.
(What’s more, the Philadelphia Eagles have gone through seven quarterbacks in six years and had yet to win a Super Bowl — and the Detroit Lions haven’t won a playoff game in 25 years! Of course they’re pissed.)
The pundits pinned their narrative on a problem economy, crime, racism and low education.
Once again, they’re off, statistically.
Unemployment is down in Michigan from nearly 15 percent in 2009 to just below 5 percent today. Pennsylvania’s unemployment figures show a drop from over 8 percent in 2010 to below 5 percent in 2016.
Crime in general is lower. In 2008 Obama (he’s African American, BTW, a fact surely noted by these “uneducated, racist, white middle class” voters) bested McCain by nearly 17 percent in Michigan, and more than 8 percent in Pennsylvania. In 2012 Obama beat Romney in Michigan by 9 percent, and in Pennsylvania by 5 percent.
Pennsylvania has one of the lowest hate crime indexes in the country at 0.87 per 100,000 residents. Less than half the rate of the angry, southern, racist, confederate flag waving states of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. So racism? Maybe not so much.
Both Michigan and Pennsylvania are above the national average in high school graduates and the percentage of college graduates. Dumb and ignorant? Not supported by statistics.
So, could it be arrogance and over confidence?
Clinton had not stepped foot in Wisconsin since the primary, a primary that Bernie sanders won. And in Michigan, another state Sanders won in the primary, the Clinton campaign had completely neglected the ground game effort according to media reports. Pennsylvania was merely a stepping stone in her assumption of winning the White House.
Even in loss, the bubble-living, establishment Hillary supporters often share social media memes calling middle America, the states Trump won,
“Dumbfuckistan.” And in the wake of the Mike Pence / Hamilton circus, memes that mocked actual Trump supporters who go to or can afford the theater are nil. That’s got to be annoying if you’re a college educated, cultured, once-went-to-see-Cats-on-Broadway, voted-for-Obama-in-the-last-two-elections resident of “Dumbfuckistan.”
Which brings us to Wisconsin.
Wisconsin is a quilted patchwork of contradictions, both socially and politically:
- It’s the birthplace of the Republican Party. The Badger state has voted for the Democratic nominee for president consistently for thirty two years and yet has voted to elect or re-elect Republican Governors seven of nine times since then. Wisconsinites voted for and re-elected Obama, Clinton and Nixon. They even voted for Nixon over JFK in 1960.
- Wisconsin is above average in the national levels for high school graduates and college degrees. Wisconsin is 88.9% white. Yet, Wisconsin resident Ezekiel Gillespie was the first African American to cast a vote for president in 1865. (He went with Lincoln) His vote was challenged and eventually upheld by the state supreme court.
- In 2012, Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin’s first woman elected to the United States Senate, beat longtime political figure and four time Republican governor, Tommy Thompson, by six points. Tammy Baldwin was also the first openly gay member elected to the senate.
- On June 10, 1919, it was the first state to ratify women’s suffrage in the United States.
- Wisconsin was the home state of Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, elected and re-elected until his death in 1952.
- In 1982 Wisconsin was the first state to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, education, credit and all public accommodations.
- Wisconsin is also the home state to Speaker Paul Ryan and Reince Preibus, Trump’s White House Chief of Staff.
To say the least, Wisconsin has been wildly schizophrenic not only its voting patterns, but in its social policy as well.
But there is one thing that is constant and consistent in Wisconsin and that is football. The Green Bay Packers.
Forbes Magazine recently named the Green Bay Packers the number one team in the NFL for fan loyalty and enthusiasm. They found that 83 percent of Green Bay adults “identified themselves as a fan that watched, attended, or listened to a Packers game in the last year.”
They also found that 80 percent of women in Green Bay consider themselves a fan.
When I began researching the outcome of presidential election results in Wisconsin beginning with the 1960 Election. Kennedy vs. Nixon, I stumbled upon some interesting patterns. Professional football began a meteoric rise in popularity in the late ’50s as television made it possible for fans to actually see their favorite players, and for the first time these players were becoming national stars. Eisenhower, a Republican, had just finished his second term.
When voters are content, happy and feeling good in general they tend to vote with the incumbent party on a national level. As of Tuesday November 8, 1960, election day, the Green Bay Packers had a winning record of 4–2 for the season. Richard Nixon, a member of the incumbent Republican party, won the state.
When voters are anxious, dissatisfied and feeling bad in general, they tend to vote against the incumbent party on a national level. On November 3, 1992, Democrat Bill Clinton was facing Republican George Bush. Bush was the sitting Vice President and a member of the incumbent party. The Packers record on that day was a dismal 3–5. A losing season. Bill Clinton won Wisconsin, beating the incumbent party.
Over a span of forty-six years and 15 presidential elections, when the Green Bay Packers had a winning record on election day the incumbent party won in Wisconsin. In 1964, 2008 and 2016 the Packers had an even record on election day. If they won their game on the Sunday prior to the election they voted with the incumbent party. If they lost, they voted against.
There has been one exception to this a rule, and a logical one: In 1984 Republican Ronald Reagan was being challenged by Minnesota Senator and ardent Minnesota Vikings fan, Walter Mondale. The Packers were slated to play their division rivals, the Vikings the week of the election. Wisconsin voted against Mondale and for Reagan. If there had been 24 hour news election maps back then Minnesota would have been a lonely blue in the sea of red.
The Packers beat the Vikings that Sunday, 45 to 17. That year the Packers had lost eight in a row, and finally had a win against the Detroit Lions on the Sunday prior to the election.
On Tuesday November 8, 2016, the Green Bay Packers had a record of 4–4. They lost two days earlier to the Indianapolis Colts. Aaron Rodgers had been struggling all season. Both the defense and offense had been wracked with injuries. The season was not unfolding the way we thought it would. Packer fans were frustrated, angry and feeling uneasy. Wisconsin voted for Donald Trump — a Republican — and against the incumbent party.
For the first time in thirty-two years the state had gone Republican in a presidential election.
The Green Bay Packers’ record predicted the outcome of the election in Wisconsin at a rate of 93.3 percent over a span of nearly five decades.
Perhaps the pollsters, pundits and media elites need to realize that there are some things “scientific” polls, focus groups and statistical analysis based solely on issues and candidates don’t take in to account … Human emotion.