Nate Cohn’s Post-Mortem Only Tells Half Of The Story

The Upper Midwest isn’t like the South–and we know that. Nate Cohn doesn’t.

So a widely read piece by Nate Cohn suggests that turnout among whites wasn’t decisive in the shift from Obama to Trump. He argues this is largely a vote switch. But the problem is that Cohn ignores the states that Clinton needed to win–the Upper Midwest. As we’ve discussed previously, turnout in those states was the decisive factor in Clinton’s loss:

But this emerging consensus around a Rust Belt revolt is wrong. People like Edsall have missed the real story: Relative to the 2012 election, Democratic support in the Rust Belt collapsed as a huge number of Democrats stayed home or (to a lesser extent) voted for a third party. Trump did not really flip white working-class voters in the Rust Belt. Mostly, Democrats lost them

Relative to 2012, Democrats lost 950,000 white voters in the Rust Belt (-13 percent). This figure includes a loss of 770,000 votes cast by white men (-24.2 percent). Compare that number to the modest gains Republicans made in terms of white voters: They picked up only 450,000 whites (+4.9 percent).

Democrats also lost the black, indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) vote in the Rust Belt 5, with 400,000 fewer voters in this category (-11.5 percent). While disaggregated exit-poll data on BIPOC voters was inconsistently available across the five states we examined, in those places where numbers were available, Democrats saw losses among both black American and Latino voters. Importantly, some of the greatest losses in BIPOC votes were in states such as Ohio and Wisconsin, both of which adopted voter suppression laws beginning in 2012. But even in states with no such laws, such as Pennsylvania, BIPOC turnout was significantly lower this election cycle. In short, more people of color stayed home in the Rust Belt in 2016 than in 2012….

Compared with 2012, three times as many voters in the Rust Belt who made under $100,000 voted for third parties. Twice as many voted for alternative or write-in candidates. Similarly, compared with 2012, some 500,000 more voters chose to sit out this presidential election. If there was a Rust Belt revolt this year, it was the voters’ flight from both parties.

And since a picture is worth a thousand words:

Democrats are never going to come close to a majority of Southern whites, college educated or not. But Democrats can do well outside of the South. In other words, nothing has changed.

If we don’t get the post-mortem right, then we wind up with bad solutions (e.g., changing policy to chase Southern whites). Cohn is doing a disservice telling only half of the story.

Related post: Bill Scher has some good analysis on this topic.

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3 Responses to Nate Cohn’s Post-Mortem Only Tells Half Of The Story

  1. sglover says:

    I don’t see why anyone needs a post-mortem. Haven’t the geniuses at Dem Central got it all figured out? Everyone knows that it was a FBI-Russian cabal that deprived Clinton of her entitlement. (Of course, until the Voxen and Kevin Drums of the world finally reach consensus, we still won’t know the exact significance of barometric pressure on HRC’s loss.) Fortunately, party leaders like Pelosi have the vision to see that nothing needs to change. With steady hands like hers — and Schumer’s!! — on the tiller, we can rest assured that nothing will.

    Face it, the Democratic Party is now an obstacle to, not an agent of, progress. Even if it could get its act together — it can’t — at best a lot of Dem senators are going to lose in 2018 simply because of the array of states involved. Does it even matter? Dems have shown quite convincingly that even when they do concoct significant majorities, they really don’t know what to do with them. Over the next six months, watch the Dem “opposition” fold repeatedly while the Trumpists run wild.

    However, it’s quite likely that the Trump gang is going to do a fabulous job of discrediting the right. At that point a pack of flailing, dullard centrists will be worse than useless. What will really be necessary to have an active left, cogent enough to critique what went wrong, lucid enough to describe another way. So rather than shoring up a worthless center party, this is a real opportunity for leftists to focus on the medium term, and beyond. Building up Left Populist organizations and doctrine is a more valuable approach to political engagement, now.

  2. Jane Hay says:

    Yes. The DNC needs to be abolished or completely overhauled. What ever happened to Dean’s “50 State” campaign? We need to start at the bottom in every state, and gain control from the bottom up. It will take years, and will be hard, but that is the only way. You have to combat disinformation one person at a time, and that takes a LOT of effort. I think Harry Reid would be a good choice to run this – the job he did in Nevada was outstanding. He’s out of the Senate now and maybe could be talked into this, but you have a LOT of Dem obstinacy to overcome.

  3. Min says:

    Scher: “One thing is certain. The votes are out there. Democrats have four years to go get them.”

    No, the Democrats have two years.

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