Democrats are funneling money into places like suburban Houston and Dallas and disguising themselves as grassroots organizers who are apolitical. But there is a county just up the Texas coast by about 200 miles that Democrats are losing and they can’t exactly figure out why.
Jefferson County is home to Beaumont and is made up of around 250,000 residents. The demographics are broad but caucasians are the primary make up with African Americans coming in right behind them. Jefferson county is mostly Democrat and always has been with only a few exceptions.
Since 1950, only three presidential election cycles have went Republican. In 1956 Jefferson County went for President Eisenhower over Adlai Stevenson. In 1972 they swung for Nixon. In 2016 Jefferson County President Trump scored just over 400 more votes than Clinton.
At the state level Jefferson County voters have leaned more and more towards the GOP of late and the county has earned the designation of being a “pivot” vote.
A pivot vote is a county that has basically voted one way and then are trending to go the other way. In this case, Jefferson County showed considerable support for President Obama in both of his campaigns but turned out voting for Trump in 2016. Nationwide there were 206 counties that voted for Trump in 2016 after voting for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Here in Texas, Jefferson County was the lone horse in the race that pivoted.
The overall net gain of votes from these pivot counties for Trump ended up being nearly 600,000 votes, and those pivot counties had an average margin of victory of 11.45 percent. Democrats ought to be concerned because a political shift in these counties nationwide could have a broad impact on elections at every level of government. In short, if they want to do what they are telling their donors that they believe they can do the Democrats have no choice but to convince these defecting voters to come back to the fold.
“I voted for Trump,” says Terrance Jones, a Beaumont resident. “I’ll tell you why. It is because these people running this Democrat thing ain’t me.”
Jones says that he sees Democrats heavily representing a faction of society that he doesn’t identify with.
“Look, these Democrats are talking like they have it all figured out and maybe they do,” Jones says. “But what they don’t understand is getting up and going to work every day, paying your taxes and supporting your family.”
Jones says that he has tried to relate to the Democratic Party time and time again but what he sees is a different demographic knocking on doors and making calls.
“They focus on these younger, more sissy type people that live a very different lifestyle than us,” Jones points out. “I mean yeah, Trump he says some crazy shit but not as bad as these Democrats.”
Jones is African-American and he relates to many of the causes that Democrats are championing when it comes to things like social-injustice and race. But for him it takes more than that to make him give them his vote. He isn’t alone. Anita Jackson feels the same way.
“I think we need Democrats to show more principle,” she says. “They talk about Republicans selling out to big business but they are selling out big special interest. You know, those people who just give them money.”
Like Jones, Mrs. Jackson says that she just doesn’t relate to the Democrats of 2020 and she feels like she has more in common with Republicans.
“I don’t know if they are boys or girls that come knocking on my door handing out cards and going to those Democrat functions,” she says. “I don’t care what they are but I do care about who they are.”
Jackson says that she too has noticed a big disconnect with Democrats in Jefferson County and how they are recruiting help from other places and bringing them in to help get support.
“You don’t know about half of these kids that you see around that Democrat office,” she says. “I go to the Republican Office to get my Trump sign and I know everybody in there.”
Helen Marcus, a Democrat strategist says that she understands.
“These Democrats out in places like Jefferson County, Texas are different,” she says. “They hunt and fish, they have very traditional country values and they really do not relate to our party at all and we are losing that fight more and more each election.”
Marcus says that she has tried to convey that to the Democrats nationally but they won’t listen to her.
“I tell them that we have to do more to show unity with our non-urban voters and get back to at least some sort of resemblance of the party that we were before during the Clinton years,” she says. “Sadly where these good folks see Republicans as being sell outs to corporate greed, they also see us as sellouts to special radical interests.”
Marcus says that in her opinion is what is killing the Democrat party.
Bill Parker is white and a democrat. He also voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to vote for Trump again in 2020.
“They can’t understand me because they never come here unless it is to ask for my vote,” Parker says as he is cleaning his recently caught fish. “Most of the damn Democrats don’t have a clue about what it is like out here.”
Parker claims that he is a “solid democrat” but has a pistol in his truck and a “Come and Take It” sticker on his window. He says that even though he votes more democrat at the local level, he doesn’t trust them enough in Austin or Washington.
“Those far-left lobbyists don’t come out here much,” he says. “They keep their asses in Austin and Washington where they can do the most damage. They know what happens to their kind out here. We run them off quick.”
Earlier in the day Governor Abbott spoke in Corpus Christi and delivered a blue ribbon award to two local schools here. He also signed an order that Democrats claim is voter suppression by allowing only one single collection point for mail-in ballots per county. Democrats that we spoke with later in the day said that they felt the governor’s move was just common sense.
“I mean who in Hell thinks that they could keep all their ballots straight if they went every which directions? I mean that’s what I say, these Democrats have got to start thinking,” Jones said. “I mean it is just something to complain about. How about doing a little bit less complaining and do a little bit more thinking for once?”
Pivot counties are obviously far and few between but Democrats are losing those that once swore firm allegiance to them and their platform across the country and regardless of it they win back the White House or take over a few seats here and there at other level in major areas, it is the losses beyond there that are really going to cost them in the long term game.But with a short sighted vision and loss of relating to their once loyal constituents could make it more difficult to prove that they are the “party of the people.”
Deeper Dive Into Pivot Counties Nationwide:
1. The 206 counties are located in 34 states. Iowa, with 31, had the most such counties. The state with the highest percentage of Pivot Counties was Maine, where Pivot Counties made up 50 percent of the state’s total counties.
2. These 206 counties cast 7.5 million votes in 2016, which accounts for 5.5 percent of all votes cast in the election.
3. Between 2012 and 2016, the Democratic popular vote margin declined by 2.1 million votes. Even though these 206 counties make up only 5 percent of the total votes cast, they accounted for 51 percent of that decline.
4. Of these 206 counties, 57 of them voted for the eventual winner in each presidential election dating back to 2000.
5. A small number of these counties could be considered bellwethers in modern presidential elections. Of the 206 Pivot Counties, 22 of them (10.7 percent) have voted for the winning presidential candidate in every election dating back to 1984.
6. Among those 22 counties, two (9.0 percent) voted for the winning candidate in every election since 1960.