Part 3—They supported Obama last time: Those People! Why did so many of Them, the ones Over There, vote for Candidate Trump?
Ever since the shocking November day when Professor Wang turned out to be wrong, we liberals have pretended to try to answer that question.
We say "pretended" for a reason. Over Here, within our liberal tents, our analyses tend to adhere to a simplistic story-line:
According to this preferred tribal view, Those People, the ones in the white working-class, voted for Trump because they're slobbering racists. We pseudo-liberals can't quit this tale. We tell it all the time.
This story attributes decisions by millions of voters to a single, unflattering motive. This morning, Amanda Marcotte became the latest fiery liberal to tell this preferred tribal tale, in a piece at the new Salon.
Marcotte works from an analysis by Nate Cohn in yesterday's New York Times. As she starts, she quotes a remarkable statement by Cohn:
MARCOTTE (3/30/17): After much contentious debate about how it is that Donald Trump won three crucial states—Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan—that were expected to be easy wins for Hillary Clinton in 2016, Nate Cohn of The New York Times has what feels like a definitive analysis. It wasn’t, as Cohn argued, that turnout was especially low. It’s that white voters turned out at higher rates than usual and critically a small but significant number of white working-class voters who had supported Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 didn’t show up for Hillary Clinton this time around.Already, Marcotte seems to have misstated Cohn's analysis in several ways. That said, she quotes him accurately—and his claim is startling:
“Over all, almost one in four of President Obama’s 2012 white working-class supporters defected from the Democrats in 2016,” Cohn wrote, “either supporting Mr. Trump or voting for a third-party candidate.”
“Over all, almost one in four of President Obama’s 2012 white working-class supporters defected from the Democrats in 2016, either supporting Mr. Trump or voting for a third-party candidate.”
That's what Cohn actually said—and his statement seems to be based on detailed statistical analysis.
At any rate, dang Those People, the ones in the white working-class! According to Cohn, one in four of Obama's white working-class voters "defected from Democrats in 2016!"
You'll note, of course, that Cohn's statement doesn't quite seem to make sense. If one in four of Obama's white working-class voters voted for Candidate Trump or voted for a third-party candidate, this would imply that more than one-fourth of Obama's WWC voters defected from Candidate Clinton.
Surely, some of Obama's WWC voters simply stayed home this time. Adding them to the two groups Cohn mentions, it would seem that more than one in four defected from Candidate Clinton.
As presented, Cohn's statement doesn't exactly make sense. Whatever! According to Cohn, an amazing percentage of Obama's white working-class voters failed to vote for Candidate Clinton last year. The eternal note of sadness comes in when Marcotte goes on to say why.
Attention tribals! Within many of our liberal tents, there can only be one explanation when Those People, the rubes Over There, refuse to behave in the manner we've been nice enough to prescribe. In this passage, Marcotte discerns that motive:
MARCOTTE: At first blush, these numbers might seem to justify a narrative that’s grown up since Clinton’s electoral defeat: Economic insecurity is driving these working-class voters away from the Democrats into the welcoming arms of Trump, who has wooed them to the dark side by blaming immigrants and people of color for their economic woes.In that final highlighted passage, Marcotte explains all those white working-class defections, full and complete freaking stop.
It’s a nice story because, if true, it suggests a simple solution: If Democrats pushed for a more robust social safety net and strong jobs programs, then these voters would be lured back by their better angels to vote for greater economic security and would reject the racist agenda offered by Trump. It’s a narrative that allows people to believe that this country’s racism problem isn’t that bad, allows urban liberal journalists to romanticize the white-working class a bit and offers the reassuring fantasy that there’s a straightforward solution to the Democratic Party’s woes.
Unfortunately, there’s no reason to believe that this is true. If anything, the 2016 elections disprove this theory. As troubling as this may be to accept, I would argue that the 2016 election results suggest that a recovering economy allowed this small but significant number of voters to indulge their racism and sexism because they didn’t have to worry as much about their economic futures. These numbers may indicate that Democrats don’t lose because of economic insecurity—but because economic security creates complacency, which can lead to a Republican victory.
Marcotte starts in semi-comical fashion. She says her explanation for those defections is "troubling to accept." She proceeds to offer the explanation we liberals tend to adore:
Those People voted for Candidate Trump because they "indulged their racism and sexism," she says. Within our tribe, this claim isn't "troubling" at all. It's the claim which brings tribal joy!
Before we note the unintentional comedy built into that statement, let's note a more basic point. In that passage, Marcotte offers a single explanation for a very large number of votes.
It can't be that some of those voters "indulged their racism" while others "worried about their economic futures." People like Marcotte, in whatever tribe, will rarely reason like that.
Instead, they'll lump all Those People together. A single motive will explain millions of votes. Inevitably, it will seem that The Others are all just alike.
Those People—they're are just all alike! It's the eternal cry of the tribe, delivered from deep in prehistory.
The humor comes when we stop to consider what Marcotte has actually said. She considers a large number of people who voted for Barack Obama, our first black president—and she concludes that their subsequent votes were driven by their racism!
Dearest darlings, please understand! Within our pseudo-liberal hive, no other explanation is available! Under edicts of hard tribal law, no other motive exists.
In fairness, we must also say this:
It wasn't just their racism which led Those People to cast their votes last year. Their sexism came into play as well! Let's not leave that out!
What makes Marcotte's analysis so hopelessly poor? Let's recall the two basic points we made on Tuesday, in Part 2 of this award-winning report:
We said that, when our tribe considers Those People, we'll tend to seek some single explanation for their millions of votes.
That's precisely what Marcotte has done.
We also told you this:
When we divine that uniform motive, it will be the least flattering motive available. Those people will be demonized—and this is precisely what Marcotte has done as she explains all those votes.
We're forced to state an unflattering point about people who reason this way. Throughout human history, people who have loathed The Others haven't been able to think of Them as being fully human.
A few weeks back, Sarah Kliff wrote about a 59-year-old WWC woman in Kentucky who has insurance through Obamacare but, because of her high premium and her high deductible, can't afford, as her age advances, to seek a doctor's care.
To the Marcottes of this world, the suffering of a person like that has to be erased. Her difficulty can't be acknowledged. A woman like that, being one of Those People, must be demonized.
So too with the West Virginia coal miner to whom Bernie Sanders and Chris Hayes spoke a few weeks back. By rule of law, his economic pain can't be acknowledged.
By law, he must be demonized. He can only be racist and sexist.
When it comes to matters like this, people like Marcotte are prehistoric. That said, they're widely found in our self-impressed tribe.
Everybody knows this but Us. In part for this fairly obvious reason, our tribe just isn't well liked.
Tomorrow: Will the real hillbillies please stand up?