Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Missing White Voter Showed Up?

And they were furious.  The kind of voter that sat out with Bush, McCain and Romney showed up for Donald Trump in the same way Barack Obama motivated young voters of color to show up eight years ago.  Real Clear Politics pundit Sean Trende has been predicting this for years.

This will probably sound a little odd if you were watching TV on election night 2012. Romney won 59% of the white vote in exit polls, better than President Bush’s 58% in 2004. Unfortunately for Romney, the white share of the electorate declined from 79.2% to 73.7 % over the same period. The result: Obama won by an even bigger margin than Bush did thanks to blowout margins with minorities.

But conservative commentators are convincing themselves they can find a few million more whites tucked between the couch cushions–at least enough for one more election. Two columnists have been particularly influential in this regard. Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics has argued that census data shows about 5 million mostly poor and rural white voters were “projected” to vote in 2012 based on population growth and past turnout but didn’t show up to the polls. Byron York, a columnist at the Washington Examiner, published a related piece noting that Romney would have lost even if he had racked up a majority of Latino voters.

“Recent reports suggest as many as 5 million white voters simply stayed home on Election Day,” York wrote in May. “If they had voted at the same rate they did in 2004, even with the demographic changes since then, Romney would have won.”

The Missing White Voter sure as hell showed up in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Iowa.  But as Trende himself points out today, in no state did these voters supposedly show up more than in Ohio.

In 2013, after all the votes had been counted, I was able to perform a more thorough analysis. It became apparent to me that these voters were blue-collar, rural and lived in areas with strong showings for Ross Perot. This reinforced my view that if Republicans softened their economic libertarianism and nominated the right candidate, this bloc might turn out and help the party win with only modest improvements among nonwhites.

This provoked great controversy. To this day I am a bit perplexed, as I was effectively saying to Democrats, “You were correct, the GOP has to make some changes to its approach in order to win.” Part of the backlash was plainly inspired by people who did not read the article. More importantly, my observation was expressly limited to the idea that missing whites could help the GOP win. People interpreted this as advocating for a “whites-only” GOP, which I expressly disclaimed, both in that article and in a subsequent piece.

It is far too early to say for certain, but what happened Tuesday certainly looks consistent with the missing-whites thesis. First, there’s very little doubt that Trump’s vote share soared when compared to Mitt Romney’s in northern rural areas. But turnout seems to have been robust as well. We once again will have to wait until all the votes are counted to conduct a more robust analysis, but consider Ohio once again:

For this iteration, the darkest red counties are ones where turnout was up or the same as 2012 levels, while lighter shades suggest turnout was down. As you can see, the Columbus and Cincinnati suburban counties – Delaware and Union, Clermont and Warren – were dark red. This is expected, given the population growth there. Notice, however, that the urban counties – Hamilton, Franklin, Cuyahoga, Stark, Summit, Lucas and Montgomery – are light. Turnout was down substantially there.

But look at the rest of the state, especially the southeast. There is a lot of red there, which is all the more surprising given population declines. It isn’t yet clear that whites there turned out in increased numbers, but they clearly avoided the decreases we saw in other areas of the state, and nationwide. Again, we need more data, but for now the best indications are that these voters were, in fact, inspired by a Republican candidate with more blue-collar appeal. Donald Trump did do better with nonwhites than Mitt Romney, which played a significant role in his victory. But there’s little doubt that a strong showing with these rural whites, who are disconnected from the global economy that increasingly defines urban and suburban environs, played a major role in his win.

That's a pretty solid explanation, and it's the Bernie Sanders/Michael Moore explanation for why Clinton lost this election: the Democrats abandoned the Working White Class Voter.

Except there's one little problem with that explanation.  It doesn't explain everything.

Here's what actually happened.

Voter suppression efforts by the GOP in NC, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, combined with the gutting of the Voting Rights Act three years ago by the Supreme Court, turned into the most successful "ground game" in Republican history.  Trende's argument is this:

  1. Overall turnout was down, as evidenced by Clinton's numbers being down about 5 million from Obama's 2012 total.
  2. Trump's numbers should have been just as bad and should also have been down about 5 million from Romney's 2012 total,
  3. But they weren't because White Working Class Voters showed up and he won.

If that's the case, if that's a national trend where Clinton turnout was down in all states, then Clinton should have also lost states like Maine, New Hampshire, Nevada and Colorado.  She didn't.

But states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, states where GOP Voter ID laws and efforts to end early voting (PA doesn't have early voting) were in effect?  These are the key states Clinton lost.

Pennsylvania is the one state where Trende's theory does work because Clinton got more votes than Obama did in 2012, and by a lot in Philly and its suburbs.  But she got *crushed* in Appalachian counties and didn't get the votes in places like Eire and Scranton.  But Trende's theory doesn't hole water in Wisconsin or North Carolina or yeah, even Ohio.

And we know exactly why.  Yes, overall turnout was down.  But Clinton's turnout was down more, because Republicans made it harder to people to vote especially in these key states, and that's why Donald Trump won.  Please remember that if was really the issue with economics, then Trump would have easily won voters making under $50,000 a year.

He lost voters making under $30K by 12 points, and those making $30-$50K by 11 points and split the rest with Clinton.

The Missing White Voter is nonsense.  GOP voter suppression was the most successful screwing of the American voting system since Jim Crow.

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