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.