A hypothesis on racial grievance and elections

Your winnings, sir…

Interesting hypothesis but I have a few issues with it.

The whole ‘riling up angry white people’ goes back to the 60s and the southern strategy and was supported at the top levels of the republican party. The GOP realized that encouraging blacks to vote in the south was in their interest because they could then win over angry, resentful white voters upset about multiculturalism. This tactic has worked beautifully for them and doesn’t just work in the south, it works pretty much in any non-urban area outside a handful of northeast states (white urban areas in VT or MA are still blue, aside from that pretty much every white rural area in America is red).

However people like Arianna huffington or Thomas Frank have written about how the base doesn’t really agree with the economic agenda of the GOP elite, and the GOP elite is having trouble controlling their base (their books were written about ten years ago). I remember when Huffington claimed that Mike Huckabee running in 2008 and doing well was an example of the inmates running the asylum. She had no idea what was in store (maybe we don’t either, and maybe the people the GOP puts up in 2024 and 2028 will make us look at Trump as the good old days). The GOP elite like immigration because it is a cheap labor force that isn’t protected by labor law. The base hates the multicultural aspect and having to compete for jobs with foreigners. The GOP elite like supply side tax cuts, the base are somewhat against them. etc

Also I would like it if you could elaborate more on your belief that progressives are going to end up the same as the GOP, a party overrun by social justice issues. One of the biggest criticisms of Bernie Sanders in the primary was that he didn’t address social issues. Sanders was 100% economics. When people got upset that he wasn’t addressing social issues he started discussing his background marching for minority rights, etc. but Sanders got very few votes among black people in the democratic primary. That is why he lost the primary to Hillary Clinton, Clinton was able to connect with black voters and since black voters make up something like 25%+ of democratic primary voters, they gave Hillary the primary election.

I guess part of the reason I don’t agree with your thesis is because progressive economics has a wide amount of support among democrats (higher minimum wage, progressive taxation, universal health care, free college, corporate regulation, mandatory vacation and sick days, rebuilding labor unions, etc) while GOP economic policies are not widely popular and are even unpopular among their own voters. Even in polls among republicans, the majority think the rich aren’t taxed enough. It isn’t the same thing. If 60% of democrats felt the minimum wage was too high the same way 60% of republicans think the rich aren’t taxed enough, I may agree with you. But the democrats do not need to hide their economic agenda from their voters the way the GOP do. The GOP has to lie and pretend bills designed to cut taxes and regulations for the rich will indirectly benefit the middle class via trickle down economics. The dems don’t have to use lies, misinformation and stories of ‘you’ll eventually benefit indirectly’ to sell their economic policies to their voters.

But I guess I don’t see any schism between the social wing and economic wing of the democratic party anytime soon. If anything they feed off each other. Better social improvement improves the economic condition of marginalized groups (women and minorities). The GOP has to use white resentment and white nationalism to distract their base long enough to get them to vote for estate tax cuts. The Democratic party can openly merge our economic and social agenda together and be honest with ourselves and our voters while we do it.

If I’m wrong, I’m open to someone explaining why.

As far as the parties sorting by race and region, I think that is mostly done now (I could be wrong). The northeast and west coast used to be purplish red, now they are deep blue. The south used to be deep blue, now it is deep red.

Whites do keep moving to the right though. But in the last decade, that has come down to education.

Whites without a college degree voted GOP by a 39% margin in 2016 (68-27), vs the 18% margin they gave the GOP in 2008 (58-40). Meanwhile whites with a college diploma gave the GOP a 4% margin in 2008 (51-47) vs a 3% margin in 2016 (48-45).

Something is going on with whites w/o a college diploma that the democrats really need to figure out and fast. Even though the % of the electorate who are whites with a college degree keeps growing, and the share who are whites w/o a degree keeps shrinking I don’t know if whites w/o a college degree can keep moving to the right, but if they can it’ll keep negating the demographic trends that benefit the democrats.

Also another thing I disagree with is that ideological sorting only occurs in homogeneous countries. Mississippi is racially diverse (60% white, 40% black) and its politics shows this. 90% of whites are republicans, 90% of blacks are democrats.

But California is also very racially diverse. 39% white, 39% latino, with mostly blacks and Asians making up the other 22%. California is a deep blue state. The rural white areas are red, but the state as a whole is deep blue. I think white voters in California are about evenly split between democrat and republican, vs whites in Mississippi which are 90% republican. Vermont is racially homogenous and they are very liberal. Idaho is racially homogenous and they are very conservative. Mississippi is racially diverse and they are conservative, California (and Hawaii) are racially diverse and they are liberal.

I guess I have trouble thinking all of America will vote like Mississippi, with the 60% of voters who are whites voting 90% GOP and 40% of non-whites voting 90% democrat. Whites are not a monolith either geographically or ideologically. About ~20% of voters are white liberals, which means off the bat about 1/3-1/4 of white voters are unobtainable to the GOP.

I do worry about a true ‘white working class’ party arising. I think they would do very well. If you had a white nationalist party that also supported the welfare state (but implied the welfare state would only benefit white people) I think that would be a pretty powerful group.

Anyway, Synopsis:

I don’t think the left has the same division between economic and social policy the right does. The right uses social policy to push unpopular economic policy that even their base don’t like (the base of the GOP don’t want medicare abolished to fund estate tax cuts). The lefts ideas (to the left at least) are popular in both economic and social terms.

However if a culturally conservative, economically liberal party comes out of the GOP, then that may cause issues. However it is going to be hard for them to be pro-welfare state and pro-redistribution while also making sure their base thinks only white people will benefit from those policies. But if the GOP is as popular as it is now with a deranged, unstable president and plutocratic economic policy, I’m guessing they’ll become superpopular with a charming, sane president and a progressive economic platform while still having the white nationalist cultural wedge issues.

Also cultural and racial tensions is not a guarantee things will break down among racial lines. Racially homogenous states can be either liberal (VT) or conservative (ID). Racially diverse states can be either liberal (CA) or conservative (MS).

Republicans can’t do anything to elevate the base in an absolute sense, economically or socially, the courts will get in the way, at least for awhile. But what they can do is listen sympathetically and nod and agree, and badmouth the groups the base hates and pretend to throw stop sticks in front of the groups the base hates, and that makes the base feel better until the next time they land on Bravo by mistake.

Good points, Wesley, and Igor.

Whether or not the GOP consciously chose this path, and there’s some evidence pointing both ways, my basic thesis is that any population large enough is going to be represented one way or another. If both party’s elites choose to shun them, they’ll just take over a party or be a major influence in both parties. Even in purple Virginia, Democrats will need these voters to win, as demonstrated by Northam’s need to condemn sanctuary cities despite his clear desire not to. He made a concession to white grievance there and Democrats in all but the bluest states have to do that to survive. Used to be national Democrats had to as well, but demographic change has made it easier for Democrats in some places to be pure on such issues. Although maybe not. Clinton was the first Democratic nominee to ever not have to cater to haters. Obama, remember, had to be against gay marriage. Clinton ran unencumbered, and the result was a huge victory for white grievance so maybe we’re not there yet.

But anyway, the point is that it’s too powerful a political force to be ignored, so expecting either party to not cater to it is unrealistic. Even if they made a choice to shun it, they’d still be defeated by it because non-hater candidates can just get primaried.

Is your argument basically that as it stands, about 35% of voters are motivated (in whole or in part) by white grievance, and they will trend to whatever party reflects this? Also, they will try to reform what party they associate with to reflect this?

Some studies have been done on racist and sexist attitudes and support of GOP candidates. It was found that approval of Trump, far more than McCain or Romney, was correlated with racist or sexist attitudes.

So white resentment is there, and many of the people who feel white resentment also voted for McCain and Romney the same as they voted for Trump. However McCain and Romney managed to keep a lid on those things, while Trump brought them out into the open. So I guess it is possible on a national level to have 2 politicians, neither of whom caters to white resentment or sexism (neither Romney or Obama did in 2012).

I’m really not sure to what role white grievance needs to be brought out into the open vs dog whistled vs ignored. The GOP has dog whistled white grievance for decades, which has made them very popular with rural whites. However neither Romney or McCain (or Bush for that matter) were openly speaking in favor of it like Trump does. So I think it is possible to have all the people who associate with white grievance be associated with one party (the GOP) while still having white grievance be a minor platform. Under Romney it was a minor, dog whistled platform. Under Trump it was front and center. But for the most part, that 35% of white grievance voters voted for both Romney and Trump.

The establishment wanted to win their votes while keeping the worst elements out of the party. Trump just said, “Screw it, I want them ALL!!” And he got them.

A report today says that white working class voters were actually underrepresented by exit polls:

45%!!! It looks like Trump really stoked that turnout.

I’ve been very impressed by the contributions of adaher, igor, and **Wesley **in the thread so far.

Ref this snip:

I think now we have a genie out of the bottle scenario.

White grievance *could *have remained sub rosa, and been courted via R cultural dog whistling and D economic dog whistling.

But now that Trump, and soon Bannon, have blown everyones’ cover so to speak, we’re stuck with it as a plain obvious wedge issue.

A problem in every race war is that very few people successfully fight for the other side. Usually they’re killed as assumed spies. It’s just too easy to find yourself co-opted into being a partisan for your side.

IMO white grievance *will *be an organizing principle of a sizeable chunk of the electorate for at least a couple decades to come. And it’s one that’s not evenly geographically distributed.

18 months ago I pointed out that the Presidency will be won by the side that motivates the typical non-voter to bother voting. When elections are decided with barely 60% turnout, the best place to find more votes is not in the opposition camp but on the sidelines.

One of the parties will capture the zeitgeist. And substantially all of the white grievance votes. The Rs have a major headstart today. They can blow it, but they’ll need the help of a lot of smart play by the Ds to do so.

I don’t think it was ever possible to keep white grievance underground. Voting is anonymous, so all that was needed was someone to appeal directly to them to bring them out. This hasn’t just happened in the US, it’s happened all over Europe as well. If there is political demand, even if it’s silent, it will be met. Especially in Europe’s case, the elites have done all they can to make it hard for nationalist parties to gain power.

In democracy, there are no real “legitimate” or “illegitimate grievances”. There are only the grievances voters have, and those grievances will be catered to one way or another.

Finally, white grievance isn’t suddenly back up from the underground. As I said, 2016 was the first, maybe the second, Presidential campaign that Democrats ran totally unencumbered by a perceived need to compromise with what they saw as hate. Prior to that, Democrats always met “the deplorables” halfway. It’s not so much that hate rose up from the underground as much as all those voters went from being swing voters or disaffected voters to Republican voters because Democrats stopped compromising with them.

Good thread, good points all around, and I don’t want to derail it — but adaher’s idea that “in a democracy, there are no real ‘legitimate’ or ‘illegitimate grievances’’” sounds off to me. I think I know what he meant — voters’ feelings must be engaged with, in some fashion or other — but “legitimacy” is an odd way to put this, and could easily be misunderstood as a defense of, say, Jim Crow or early (still-a-democracy) Nazism.

Shadi Hamid put it more pithily (and I forget where), but he makes a similar point: in a democracy, if enough people want something badly enough, sooner or later they’ll get it, whatever your moral evaluation of ‘it’ is.

Some European countries. In others the ethno-tribalists (I dislike the term ‘nationalists’, since people use ‘nation’ to mean different things) are either in power or have successfully managed to change the national discourse / agenda in a more ethnic-nationalist direction. Much of Eastern Europe would be in the first category, Denmark and Austria would be the second.

TLDR, Germany / Britain / France are not all of Europe.

Sarah Palin was the genie.

Back in 2008, I used to go to a site called chronwatch which was a message board I believe was originally or ostensibly formed to shit talk the San Francisco Chronicle. The moderator was pretty cool, but the participants were all Tea Party prototypes. So I would go in there and brawl it out with them and it was fun because Obama was comfortably ahead and then all hell broke loose in October with the financial crisis and it was over.

They didn’t like McCain, and hated him after he shot down that old lady at the town hall.

But they LOOOOOOVED Sarah Palin. A straight talkin’ know-nuthin’ just like them.

It’s a straight line from Sarah Palin to Trump. Trump was Palin emerging from exile in Tora Bora in drag having feasted on steroids for 7 years.

And that’s why Steve Schmidt has been doing penance on MSNBC for the last couple of years and will continue to have to do so for some time to come. He popped the cork.

I agree with most of OP, but think he’s somewhat wrong in his conclusion:

Sorting by race and region may be common in other countries and in America’s past, but it doesn’t explain America’s current politics. Hillary got almost half the white women’s vote; Trump got 30% of the Hispanic and Asian votes. Big splits were on moral issues: Gays voted (D), evangelicals voted (R). (Income was almost irrelevant: the vote counts were very close in every income group.)

Blacks will continue to oppose the (R) agenda of course, but otherwise race and region is not the key determinant of American voting today. Today’s parties align with modes of cognition and morality.

America is undergoing HUGE and rapid cultural changes, and there is much to celebrate. But trying to go too fast on these issues and disrespecting all the “Archie Bunkers” led directly to the November Tragedy. Most Republicans don’t really support pedophiles like Roy Moore but will vote for him to thumb their noses at SJWs’ excessive enthusiasm.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Today’s parties align with modes of cognition and morality. The real political problem today, which adaher hints at in his OP, is the loss of a political center — the loss of a consensus of good-spirited Americans that led to both parties being robust big-tent parties.

In the olden days, a town might have both a (D) and an (R) newspaper — but top citizens read both papers. Town meetings brought everyone together to discuss. Today, polarization has erased the important center. I blame this on the rise of Internet and cable over human meetings and interactions.

What is the solution? My modest proposal is that Google and Facebook should deliberately present users with contrary opinions, not continually reinforce their prejudices! :cool:

Facebook destroyed all the Dislike buttons years ago. It would cost a FORTUNE to make enough new ones.

In the week since I wrote my original post I came across a couple of articles that I felt were interesting.


That article claims that areas that are up to about ~90% white did worse under Trump than Romney when it came to the GOP vote share. However it is a hockey stick graph, once you get to about 85% white, the support for Trump starts to skyrocket going from a few points less than Romney in 85% white areas, up to about 10 points higher for Trump in areas that are 100% white.

Some of these were Obama counties too. The argument seems to be that those 85-100% white areas are feeling threatened by multiculturalism, and Trump’s message appealed to them.

However some of those areas where areas Obama won but Trump then turned around and won. So it isn’t as easy as just shouting people down with insults. But it is an interesting factoid that communities that are less than 90% white were less likely to support Trump than they supported ROmney, but once a community hit a critical mass of 85% white, it started seeing rapid growth in Trump support.

The difference was there, but it wasn’t gigantic. It’d be more like if 3-7% of white voters in very white enclaves who’d normally vote democratic decided to vote republican when Trump was on the ticket.

I read another article that claimed when you controlled for attitudes regarding race and sex, the education gap (Trump won college educated whites by 3-4 points, he won high school educated whites by 39 points) mostly disappears. I"m having trouble finding it right now.

So if those things are true, what do we do about it? Shouting people down and insulting them won’t work, it’ll just cement resistance. But if a small % of the electorate who would normally stay at home or vote democratic, but is motivated by Trump’s dislike of multiculturalism decide to vote for him instead of voting dem or staying home, that small sliver can shift an election.

The result of Brexit in Britain is instructive. It too was a pretty close vote overall. There were lots of people who voted each way for a variety of reasons; economic, cultural, sovereignty, etc.

Of interest here were the many people who voted Leave who later reported it was done as a specific statement against immigrants & multiculturalism. Polling has found that the percentage of folks voting that way for that reason were pretty highly correlated with being in a purely white immigrant-free area.

The evidence shows It’s much easier to fear people you’ve only read about and have never actually seen much less met. IOW, the anticipation of impending multiculturalism is much worse than the reality.