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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Undereducated Whites are not a new cog in the Republican coalition

Nate Cohn's December 23rd column points to the cause of Clinton's loss as her inability to hold Obama's coalition together. His two pieces of evidence are:
1. Undereducated whites in Northern states voted for Trump in greater numbers than they did Romney.
2. Black voters in key Southern states did not vote at the same level as in 2008 or 2012.

The first point is wrong and the second completely misses the reason why.

Undereducated whites have been making a steady march to the GOP side since 1996. If I had to hazard a guess, I would point to the disintegration of union jobs due to globalization. Whereas union members are heavily Democratic voters, former union members, particularly in the Rust Belt, are now reliable Republican voters. There was one exception to this trend -- the 2008 anti-Bush backlash. Otherwise, as this graph from Pew Research shows, 2016 was worse for Democrats than 2012 which was worse than 2008 and 2004. And 2004 was worse than 2000 which was worse than 1996:

This trend, therefore should have been predictable. And, as Cohn points out, it very much was to the Clinton campaign. They built a 10 point drop into their forecast models. However, they still saw victory in sight in states like MI, PA, and WI.

So if that wasn't the major shortcoming, what was? Cohn's second point is closer to a likely outcome but he misses the reason why. He states that black turnout was down from historic highs in 2008 and 2012. But a small drop was to be expected considering the last candidate was President Obama. Cohn points out that there was roughly a 15% reduction in turnout.

What would cause that differential? It's not that Hillary ignored black voters. In fact she probably addressed the issues for them better than Obama had done (for cultural and societal reasons). In the end, it comes down to voter suppression. This year we saw ourselves facing a Voting Rights Act gutted by state legislators, governors, and the Supreme Court. That amounted to hundreds of thousands of voters illegitimately being dropped from voter rolls.

In the end, the combination of voter suppression, Comey, and Putin was enough to turn the tide in an election that a Democrat normally would have rolled to an easy victory.