City Dwellers Don't Vote GOP Anymore Because The GOP Message Is Aimed Towards Cave Dwellers
The final NBC/Wall Street Journal national poll showed Hillary with a 4 point lead over Trump-- 44-40%. It doesn't mean much at this point, when over 30 million people have already voted. And polling shows she's even more head among that group. But in the NBC poll, conducted after the FBI tried to swing the election to Trump, showed some interesting demographic trends worth noting.
Clinton is ahead of Trump among women (53 percent to 38 percent), African Americans (86 percent to 7 percent), Latinos (65 percent to 20 percent) and those ages 18-34 (55 percent to 32 percent).Republicans are claiming there are enough angry, uneducated white males ready to come bounding out of their caves on Tuesday to guarantee the election to Trump. But Trump is already way ahead in the states with caves full of angry, uneducated white males. Hillary isn't contesting Alabama, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Wyoming or Kentucky. And Greg Sargent pointed out in the Washington Post Thursday that even if all the cave dwellers find their way to the polls, the missing non-white voters will, at the very least, balance them out. They might as well stay in their caves and pick body-lice off each other. Trump's hateful, bigoted rhetoric isn't going to save him; quite the contrary.
Trump, meanwhile, leads among men (47 percent to 42 percent), seniors (49 percent to 42 percent) and whites (53 percent to 38 percent).
But there's a significant difference among whites: Those without college degrees are breaking for Trump by a 2-to-1 margin, 60 percent to 30 percent.
Yet among whites with college degrees, Clinton is ahead by 10 points, 51 percent to 41 percent.
Clinton leads among those who are early voters, 53 percent to 39 percent, while Trump is up among those who will wait to vote on Election Day, 48 percent to 41 percent.
A tremendous amount of attention has been lavished on understanding the motives and predilections of these voters. They are variously described as non-college whites, blue collar whites, white nationalists who thrill to Trump’s America First rhetoric, Rust Belt whites who have been losers in the globalizing economy, whites who hate both parties and the establishment, whites who believe immigration threatens their place in the labor market, whites who are suffering anxiety over cultural and/or demographic change, and so forth.And that brings us to last week's most-talked about NY Times essay, written by Emily Badger and Quoctring Bui-- Why Republicans Don't Even Try To Win Cities Anymore. First take a look at these dozen urban congressional districts' performances in 2012. This is the percentage Romney got in each district:
...[T]here hasn’t been a massive surge in new registration among white voters; and second, it’s not clear that Trump has a decisive advantage among the missing white voters in any case.
The “missing voters” are actually broken down into two categories in Cohn’s study. He looked at approximately 1500 voters in the three swing states who did not vote in 2012, but are all now registered-- either they registered before 2012 and didn’t vote, or they have registered since then.
Cohn concluded that white voters in those two categories support Trump in smaller numbers than the white voters who voted in 2012 do, meaning they are not necessarily a natural target for Trump, after all. And, crucially, it is Clinton who actually leads among all the voters (white and nonwhite) who did not vote in 2012:
This is in part because of nonwhite voters. Of the voters who were registered in 2012 but didn’t vote (among whom Clinton leads by 42-33), there are more nonwhites than whites. And the voters who are newly registered (among whom Clinton leads by 47-33) are disproportionately young and nonwhite, many of them Latinos.
Now, the big question remains: Which of these voters who did not turn out in 2012 will actually do so this time, and what impact will that have?
We won’t have a sense of the answer to this until after Election Day, obviously. But the Associated Press reports that analysts in both parties are seeing signs in Florida’s early vote that Democrats are getting people who haven’t voted before to do so now in greater numbers than Republicans are. Meanwhile, the Latino share of the early vote is up (Democrats are struggling with flagging African American enthusiasm, but that may still get turned around, and Latinos may help mitigate that).
We don’t know why all of this is the case, but it’s plausible that Trump’s candidacy might have something to do with it. And in very close outcomes in these battlegrounds, marginal shifts in the composition of the electorate could matter.
The big potential flaw in Trump’s whole “missing whites” strategy has always been that the measures he’s apparently thought would help get those voters out-- in particular, the relentless xenophobia and racist campaign-- risked driving up turnout among nonwhites. It would be quite the ironic outcome if Trump’s “missing whites” strategy ended up making “missing nonwhites” matter to the outcome more than they otherwise would have if another Republican had been the nominee. Particularly if it helps deliver a Trump loss.
UPDATE: Since this piece ran, turnout has been exploding in the early voting among Latinos in several key battlegrounds, and crucially, many are first time voters, i.e., the missing nonwhite vote... Or, as Senator Lindsey Graham neatly put it: “So Trump deserves the award for Hispanic turnout. He did more to get them out than any Democrat has ever done.”
• NY-15 (South Bronx)- 3%Tuesday, if polls and early voting stats are to be believed,Trump will likely do worse in every single one of them. "Even as much else about this election feels unprecedented, write Badger and Bui, "America’s urban-rural divide will be as strong as ever, continuing a decadeslong process in which the two parties have sorted themselves ever more clearly by population density."
• NY-13 (Harlem)- 5%
• PA-02 (Philly)- 9%
• CA-13 (Berkley, Oakland)- 9%
• NY-05 (Queens)- 10%
• NY-08 (Bedford-Stuyvesant)- 10%
• NY-07 (Brooklyn, Lower East Side)- 10%
• IL-07 (Downtown Chicago)- 12%
• FL-24 (South Broward, North Miami-Dade)- 12%
• NJ-10 (Newark)- 12%
• CA-12 (San Francisco)- 13%
• CA-37 (South L.A.)- 13%
Trump has elevated a strategy that is risky to the Republican Party in the long run. Not only have recent Republican candidates neglected cities, but they’ve also run against them, casting urban America as the foil to heartland voters. Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin caricatured coastal cities as unmoored from the “real America.” Ted Cruz derided “New York values,” as if those values, whichever ones he meant, were alien. Mr. Trump has pre-emptively annulled the votes of Chicago, St. Louis and Philadelphia, cities where he warns the election will be rigged against him.And if Republicans are counting on Paul Ryan's slick Madison Avenue #BetterWay p.r. campaign to right that ship, they're going to be in for some very bitter years. Urban voters are smart and even in Ryan's own district, he does most poorly in urban areas like Janesville, Kenosha and Racine.
“It’s unimaginably distressing, even by eight years ago, let alone 16 years ago,” said Stephen Goldsmith, a former Republican mayor of Indianapolis and an adviser to George W. Bush in the 2000 campaign. “We had an opportunity to reach broadly across the country to have an inspiring voice of opportunity, and there’s a set of coherent Republican policies that would amplify that opportunity. We’re doing the opposite. We’re insulting folks who could vote for us.”
The history of how the G.O.P. got here is partly about the ideological realignment of the two parties, and the disappearance of liberal Republicans like Jacob Javits, a senator from New York State, and John Lindsay, a mayor of New York City (a Republican who left the party, he said, when it left him). The party even moved away from conservative Republicans like Jack Kemp, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the George H.W. Bush administration, who spoke often about urban opportunity. But this history is also about the physical realignment of voters, as the rise of suburbia enabled Democrats and Republicans to move, literally, farther apart.
In 1966, white voters in Chicago who’d long supported the city’s Democratic machine began to bolt for the Republican Party. They were alarmed by urban riots, by civil rights legislation in Congress and-- much closer to home-- by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign in Chicago that year for “open housing.”
Pamphlets soon began to appear on the stoops of the city’s middle-class bungalows: “Your Home is your castle — Keep it that way by Voting STRAIGHT REPUBLICAN.” This was the summer, the historian Rick Perlstein writes in his book Nixonland, when the party of Lincoln changed its mind.
Those newly converted Republicans in Chicago voted in 1968 for Richard Nixon. “But these were the people,” Mr. Perlstein said in an interview, “who largely would have left the city within 10 years.”
Those Chicago voters embody both trends-- party realignment and white flight-- that have remade political geography since then. In the 1950s, in presidential election results compiled by the Stanford political scientist Jonathan Rodden, a county’s population density was a poor predictor of how its residents voted. Today, the pattern is remarkably consistent: The denser the county, the more overwhelmingly its residents vote Democratic.
“This story could be written in one word,” Mr. Perlstein said of that historical arc. “The one word would be ‘race.’ ”
In the early days of white flight, two federal policies-- the construction of the interstate highway system and mortgage guarantees for the new suburbs-- pulled whites out of cities even as they were getting pushed by racial tension, desegregation and school busing.
“The people who go to the suburbs are not a random selection,” said Jessica Trounstine, a political scientist at the University of California, Merced. They were the middle and upper class. They became homeowners. They prized neighborhoods of single-family houses. Those characteristics today all correlate with leaning Republican. “These population shifts happen for reasons that are external to politics,” Ms. Trounstine said, “but politics is embedded in who goes.”
Metropolitan areas with more highway construction became more polarized over time between Democratic cities and Republican suburbs, according to research by Clayton Nall, a Stanford political scientist. Where highways were built, they helped sort people. Where they led, suburbs became more reliably Republican. They created entirely new places, Mr. Nall argues, with new politics.
...In many ways, it was becoming clearer over this time what each party stood for, whether on race or cultural cleavages or transportation or poverty. The basic party infrastructure Republicans would need to win in cities, at any level, disintegrated. Even the average congressional district held by Republicans today has a quarter of the population density it did in 1950.
As they have had less to say to cities, Republicans have come to talk, instead, about them.
“They have it in their interest to appeal to suburban voters who are looking back to the city through their rearview mirrors with a mix of disgust and romance for an imagined past,” said Thomas Sugrue, a New York University historian.
In party platforms, the G.O.P. eventually tiptoed to an almost anti-urban stance. In 1988, the platform called for “special attention to urban residents” in the census to ensure their full federal representation. In 2000, the party still nodded toward support for transit. By 2012, it accused the Obama administration of “replacing civil engineering with social engineering as it pursues an exclusively urban vision of dense housing and government transit.”
Cities today come up in the platform when they’re scolded for their immigration stands as “sanctuary cities.” They’re mentioned for their “soaring” murder rates and the funds they siphon to mass transit that should be spent on highways instead. And that’s about it.
The approaching election will look no different. Hillary Clinton’s strongest base of support-- where adults surveyed by Gallup are most likely to say they hold favorable views of her-- is in the densest counties. Mr. Trump fares the best in the sparsest places.
Beneath this election’s dark plotlines about temperament, party infighting and accusations of sexual assault, that underlying pattern bodes badly for the G.O.P.
“What happens if you abandon the places where most people live?” said Mr. Perlstein, the historian. After its 2012 defeat, the Republican Party wrung its hands over the need to face demographic change in a country that’s becoming majority-minority. But geography poses a problem, too: Once-white suburbs are growing more diverse; poverty is spreading there; and central cities that Republicans relinquished are now the country’s economic engines.
The anti-city strategy holds up today only because Democrats, with their tight clusters of urban support, are at a structural disadvantage in Congress.
“One of the most important implications of all this is that ignoring cities can be a winning strategy in House races,” Mr. Rodden said. “The mix of positions that the Republicans have taken has served them really well in winning the House. But it’s not working out so well in presidential elections.”
The seemingly cynical solution is to count on low turnout among urban voters. The alternative is to compete for them.
“If you compete in cities, you don’t have to win in them,” said Thomas Ogorzalek, a political scientist at Northwestern. “If you go 70-30 in Chicago, instead of 90-10 like Trump is going to do, you can win Illinois. That’s not a bad strategy.”