BREAKING: Why did black voter turnout decline?

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2020

Princeton professor tries to explain in the New York Times:
Has the liberal intelligentsia ever been so unable to function?

We've been seeing it in the heavily scripted Oscar commentary of the past few weeks. We've been seeing it in the remarkably unhelpful election punditry.

Tomorrow, we'll return to full-time discussion of this existential dilemma. For today, consider what happened when the New York Times published the opinion column by the Princeton professor.

The professor sought to explain a deeply puzzling point. She sought to explain the decline in black voter turnout in the last presidential election.

According to the essay's headline, the Princeton professor blamed the decline on Barack Obama's "failure to deliver major changes." Sadly but typically, the column started like this:
TAYLOR (2/8/20): The sting of Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016 still hangs heavy over the Democratic Party. There has yet to emerge a consensus understanding of the party’s failure to beat an opponent who almost everyone assumed could be defeated. Some have focused on voter suppression, others on Russian interference. Mrs. Clinton continues to blame Bernie Sanders. But missing from the various theories is how Barack Obama’s tenure may also have contributed to voter disaffection because he failed to bring about the transformational changes he promised.

The dramatic contrast between him and his successor, Donald Trump, has, in some ways, created pressure on Democrats to focus only on Mr. Trump’s transgressions while ignoring other factors that may have contributed to his election. As the primary campaign ramped up last summer, for example, party insiders made clear they would vigorously challenge any scrutiny of Mr. Obama’s presidency. “Stay away from Barack Obama,” one said. A former aide to Mr. Obama, Neera Tanden, wrote on Twitter that Democratic candidates who “attack Obama are wrong and terrible.” She added, “Obama wasn’t perfect, but, come on, people, next to Trump, he kind of is.”

The perception of the “perfect Obama” is contradicted by black voter turnout in 2016: It declined for the first time in 20 years, falling to 60 percent from 67 percent in 2012. This surely cannot be attributed only to voter suppression or the lack of an African-American candidate on the ticket—after all, Mr. Obama framed Mrs. Clinton’s run as his so-called third term. It’s safe to presume that disillusionment with Mr. Obama’s record, even as people continued to admire him personally, is, to some degree, reflected in these turnout figures.
According to the Princeton professor, black voter turnout declined from 67 percent in 2012 to 60 percent in 2016. We're then told this:

"It's safe to presume that disillusionment with Mr. Obama’s record...is, to some degree, reflected in these turnout figures."

Is it safe to make that presumption? Obviously, yes, it is! It's safe to presume that any number of factors "are reflected," to some degree, in the decline in black turnout.

The key words there—"to some degree"—make this claim almost completely pointless. That said, we were struck by the professor's failure to offer a more complete set of data concerning black turnout.

An obvious question popped into our heads—what was black turnout like before Barack Obama was the Democratic nominee? Using the same census data she used, this is what black turnout looked like in the last four White House elections:
Black voter turnout under recent Dem nominees:
2016: 60 percent (Hillary Clinton)
2012: 67 percent (Barack Obama)
2008: 65 percent (Barack Obama)
2004: 60 percent (John Kerry)
In short, turnout rose with Obama as candidate, then declined to where it had been under Candidate Kerry. Putting it another way:

On its face, it isn't clear that there's anything here that anyone needs to explain.

In 2016, black turnout declined to where it had been the last time the Democratic nominee wasn't Barack Obama! The following data offer wider context:
Black voter turnout under previous Dem nominees:
2000: 57 percent (Al Gore)
1996: 53 percent (Bill Clinton)
1992: 59 percent (Bill Clinton)
Make of those numbers what you will. But according to the data in question, black turnout in 2016 was as high as it ever had been, except for the two elections when Obama was the candidate.

Why would anyone be surprised by the decline in the black turnout rate in 2016? Why would anyone feel the need to blame that turnout rate on "disillusionment with Mr. Obama’s record," as the Princeton professor has done?

We don't know, but that's the way the essay began when the New York Times decided to publish the work of the Princeton professor. As we've long noted, work like this is constantly offered in the New York Times.

More and more and more and more, it seems to us that our liberal tribe simply isn't up to the task of dealing with this, The Age of Trump.

Simply put, we're routinely unintelligent, we're highly scripted and we're sometimes remarkably silly. More and more often, The Others think we're dumb and/or offensive, often for reasons which are perfectly valid.

Today, we're offering one small example of The Way Our Highest Progressive Elites Are Strongly Inclined to Function. Tribal groups whose leadership functions this way may not be long for this world.

Our meta-question is this:

Can you imagine the possibility that our Ivy professors and our most famous newspaper just aren't especially sharp? More and more and more and more, that seems to us to be The Story of The Age.

Can we liberals bring ourselves to conceive of this possibility? According to waves of anthropologists, the human brain just isn't wired for such counterintuitive tasks.

Why did black turnout decline in 2016? We'll answer the question with one of our own:

Given everything we know about human affairs, why wouldn't that turnout rate have declined in 2016? Elite professors and flyweight newspapers might start by riddling us that!

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Is it possible that we ourselves, over here in our liberal tents, just aren't sharp enough to deal with a figure like Trump?

Trump seems to be bumping up in the polls. Are we going to know how to win?

Starting tomorrow: The rational animal's fictions

Coming soon: Award-wining work! The rational animal's lair!

34 comments:

  1. We have no idea what "black voter turnout" is, but this:

    "how Barack Obama’s tenure may also have contributed to voter disaffection because he failed to bring about the transformational changes he promised"

    ...is certainly right on the money. Your demigod establishment clown Barry was the last straw.

    Your cult's sales pitch was, for decades, "VOTE FOR US - WE ARE THE LESSER EVIL!". And, lo and behold, your totalitarian zombie cult is now the greatest evil.

    Read Matt Taibbi's column I posted yesterday, dear Bob.

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    2. Mao, you are the racist scum of the earth, no better than any redneck who brought a rope to the lynching, and all who read your posts know it. And that's only one of your many, many problems, lowlife.

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  2. Mao's party are superfans of voter suppression.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hillary Clinton doesn't blame Bernie for her defeat. She made a couple of negative comments about Bernie in a recent documentary. Her explanation for her loss is contained in a couple of chapters in her book "What Happened":

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MYE7QP0/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

    Bernie's unwillingness (or inability) to unite his followers behind Hillary during her general election campaign surely didn't help in those key states. Anyone can speculate about why he did that. But Jill Stein (with Russian funding) also pulled votes from her. The Russian disinformation campaign aimed at black voters also pulled votes in those three key states. And there was evidence that computers were hacked in those states. And all of that is in addition to Comey's statement and the media's incompetence. No one thinks that Hillary lost because the black vote was disappointed with Obama.

    It is interesting that a book written as an attack on Obama from the African American Left plays so deftly into the hands of Trump, who is trying to attract black voters (and reassure his white base that is not actually a racist). We might profitably consider whether attacking mainstream Democratic candidates from the left (as Bernie has been doing) is also helping to reelect Trump.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Bernie Bros have been chanting loud and coordinated boos against rival candidates in New Hampshire to the point that it is disrupting their speeches. Bernies will not tell them to cool it, and he won't disavow their actions (much as he wouldn't during the primaries against Hillary Clinton). This election shouldn't be about who has the nastiest hooligans. Bernie needs to exhibit some leadership. He is losing votes among those who think this is ugly, improper and inconsistent with democratic elections. This is exactly the kind of thing that makes me think Bernie is being paid by Russia and others to disrupt the Democratic election and he is not a serious candidate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll vote for Bernie or Trump. Again.

      Delete
    2. Skip Bernie and go right to the source, Trump.

      Delete
  5. "Trump seems to be bumping up in the polls. Are we going to know how to win?"

    Trump is actually not bumping up in the polls. He had one outlier poll that has since gone back down again. He is at his same low level as always. Only Republicans think such an outlier poll means anything. And Somerby...

    ReplyDelete
  6. “Why would anyone feel the need to blame that turnout rate on "disillusionment with Mr. Obama’s record," as the Princeton professor has done?

    We don't know”

    The professor is on the editorial board of the International Socialist Review.  In an interview in that magazine, she said:

    “The election of Trump is a catastrophe. And it’s the fault of Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment whose policies were so bad that they depressed turnout from their own base.”

    And:

    “There was one candidate in the Democratic Party that did speak to these issues—Bernie Sanders.”

    So, when Somerby talks about the “liberal intelligentsia”, he fails to note the divisions within it. When he says “we're routinely unintelligent, we're highly scripted and we're sometimes remarkably silly”, he fails to note that Professor Taylor’s remarks are “scripted”, only if you ignore the point on the left political spectrum from which she is speaking.

    Somerby’s main concern has been that Democrats should eschew identity politics and (ironically) broaden their appeal to the identity group “white working class”, so perhaps he is attempting to push that message here. The other irony is, of course, that Bernie, the professor’s desired candidate, is uninterested, if not opposed to appealing to identity politics, which would seem to align precisely with Somerby’s message.

    So, Somerby’s argument doesn’t actually make sense here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps it is just simply that Somerby doesn't like any professors, especially ones from top schools such as Princeton, and this author is both black and female. How could he resist?

      We can use this instructive essay to place his priorities in rank order for bashing: (1) women first, (2) professors second, (3) woke people or people who seem woke because they are members of minority groups, (4) people making statistical errors. These other factors all outweigh that this author supports Somerby's candidate, Bernie, has an interest in attacking the Democratic establishment rather than Obama (who is portrayed as ineffectual).

      When you are an Assistant Professor at a high profile university, you must espouse some attention-getting theory or discovery in order to keep your position there. She doesn't have tenure and is perhaps hoping to stay at Princeton. So she needs to say something "big" in a visible medium. How do you stand out among other African American Studies professors? Bashing Obama seems like a career-advancing ploy to me.

      Delete
  7. “we're routinely unintelligent, we're highly scripted and we're sometimes remarkably silly”

    Somerby never acknowledges the faction on the left that has routinely opposed what they view as the “globalist neoliberal” Democratic Party establishment. It manifested itself in the support of Nader in 2000 and Stein in 2016, and it produced harsh criticism of Democrats going all the way back to Bill Clinton.

    Sanders, and his supporters especially, want to destroy the Democratic Party establishment and replace it with something supposedly more truly liberal. The problem is that it may take precisely those centrist or moderate loyal DNC candidates who are opposed by the True Left in order to win over voters in red states, the ones Democrats may need in order to broaden their coalition and ensure their dominance, and the ones Somerby thinks Democrats should focus on.

    Given his gushing over AOC recently, it isn’t clear if his critique of “silly, unintelligent” liberals is meant to include a criticism of the Socialist wing. If it isn’t, it should, because that is a major obstacle against Democratic unity. It begins to look cowardly or feckless for Somerby to continue spewing his tired criticisms of liberals without drilling down into reasons that have nothing to do with “identity politics.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "more truly liberal" is your imbecilic fantasy, dembot.

      Under the current conditions, anything pro-working-class would look very similar to what our beloved president has been doing: economic protectionism. And that's all there is to it.

      Delete
    2. Sanders opposed NAFTA, and has always been opposed to unlimited free trade.

      Delete
    3. Why, good for him. This is how he gets himself elected in Vermont: talking the talk. Without any discernible effect on anything, of course.

      Note, however, that he likes to call himself, quite appropriately, 'socialist', not 'liberal'.

      Liberalism can't be against "trade" and "markets". These are the essential "freedoms". What liberals demand is more womyn and "blacks" in the top 1%, and more "white men" in the urban ghettos and prisons. Except for themselves, rich liberal "white men", obviously.

      Delete
    4. Sanders and his supporters are actively trying to remake the Democratic Party. They oppose the so-called “liberalism” of that organization. They combine aspects of protectionism with stronger worker’s rights and a stronger social safety net at home. FDR is a role model of the kind of liberalism Sanders admires.

      My point was that Somerby won’t weigh in on this debate. He has stated that he likes Sanders’ politics, while at the same time holding Clinton and Gore in high esteem and defending them. He’s trying to have it both ways, and it doesn’t work. It renders his attacks on liberals incoherent.

      Delete
    5. Well, it's nice to see a liberal who can not only see the rot and decay among his own 'tribe' (as he calls it), but also document it.

      His analysis is often off, imo, but he's still quite a phenomenon.

      Delete
    6. FDR wasn't a liberal. He was a problem solver faced with the difficulties of the depression. He recruited people to address those problems, some of whom were definitely liberal, and some not so much. He was able to enact change because the status quo was so awful for so many people. Mistaking him for a ideological liberal suggests an ignorance of history.

      Delete
    7. Somerby may hold Bill Clinton in high esteem (not so sure he does though) but he doesn't esteem Hillary.

      Delete
    8. "Mistaking him for a ideological liberal suggests an ignorance of history."

      This could probably be said about every (or almost every) high-level politician. Ideological zealots rarely, if ever, rise to the top. A successful politician is machiavellian; their only ideology is power.

      Delete
  8. Obama did fine. Al Sharpton and white leftists ginned up fake race agitating stories in his second term that turned Democratic voters either into insane radicals who identify "their pronouns," or Republicans. Both groups helped Trump. If not for the lunatics, Hillary would have coasted to victory.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. By lunatics, I assume you mean Russians and Comey.

      Delete
  9. Yes, Bernie did such a great job that he received 4 million fewer votes than Hillary during the primaries.But he was going to "inspire" people to get off their lazy butts and fulfil their responsibilities as citizens. Right, And I'm the next King of England.

    ReplyDelete
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