My favorite cable channel, MSNBC, has been making me nervous lately with their post-election breakdowns of voting for Obama and Mitt Romney. They are so enthusiastic about turnout among Latinos and blacks, that they keep glossing over the fact that American white voters basically put Barack Obama in, in 2008. And re-elected him in 2012.
Some of this is base-versus-margin, where, after a challenging but successful election, the base always wants to make like their contribution was “more” than the fact that the middle voter (who might vote for either side) chose the winner. If the base stays home, it’s a loss of one vote. But when you lose the middle, it’s a loss of two: the vote you don’t get, and the vote the other side does.
When I see graphics that go, the white vote was only 72% of the electorate this time around, and they “only” gave 40% to Barack Obama, I don’t see why these otherwise very bright people don’t finish the equation. It means Obama got .72 * .40 = .288 of 28.8% of the universe of votes from whites, and he won overall with 50.4%. So 57% of his total votes (.288/.504) came from white voters. Yes, the other groups also voted for Obama, and some disproportionately for Obama. But the bulk of his votes came from white people.
Melissa Harris-Perry had a number up like that in one of her segments, but a number of other hosts missed this point.
Myself, I’d prefer they divide it out further by taking out the Old Confederacy. The overwhelming number of Southern whites voted Romney, and it’s in keeping with the 150 year tradition of going against whatever the North is doing. No offense to Fox News/Entertainment’s Bill O’Reilly, but the “traditional America” is really the North, and the states settled by Westward Expansion in the 19th century. When you consider just these states, it’s no surprise that Barack Obama is in there and supported so strongly in many, many communities.
It’s hard to go heavy about somebody like George McGovern, now that he passed on. But in his day, he was kind of scoundrel that messed up the Democratic party, really, for the subsequent 35 years. This was done by rewriting delegate rules and inviting in an uncompromising and radicalized set of social liberals, who became the party. This crowd, for whom the idea that their respective small faction “made” the Democratic party led to all that awful political correctness and loony antics which made being a Democrat a tough row to hoe. You had Jimmy Carter–who otherwise never would have been competitive–apply those rules to get the nomination in ’76. Once he showed that he stood for neither Northern liberalism (Ted Kennedy) or what was left of more moderate Dixiecrats, he could not put together sufficient support in ’80. You then had the wilderness of the ’80’s until Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton in 1992 pitched himself as “new Democrat”, which “new” meant that he was not going to be a knee-jerk McGovernite.
Among those contemporary Democrats who style themselves the same as the Politically Correct crowd of the early ’90s, the risk is going to rise of a Lurch to the Left, of the kind that bedeviled the early first Clinton administration in 1993. No one today talks about the Lurch to the Left, because the Democrats would rather forget it; and the Republicans act like everyday is a lurch to the left with the Dems.
Clinton was a plurality president, who only won 43% of the vote versus H.W. Bush and Ross Perot. Clinton won on the “new Democrat” promise. But the McGovernite groups acted like Clinton’s support came exclusively from them, and January 1993 was the time for them to get theirs—and really, even if that came to the detriment of those people who had supported Clinton from the earliest days, the Gennifer Flowers/60 Minutes days.
So you had the “gays in the military” dustup in the first week of the new presidency, which ended up setting back gay rights in the military for 20 years. There was a woman named Lani Guinier who was nominated for an administration role, who had written a law review article about automatically giving minorities legislative seats, regardless of an actual vote count. There were a series of nominations for a woman for Attorney General, where each had had some tax problem. (According to accounts, Mrs. Clinton insisted it be a woman.) The merits on any of these issues or candidates aside, what the general public saw this as was McGovern antics. That, with the Clinton health care initiative, gave the House to the Republicans for the first time since the 1950’s, and the Senate, too, in the 1994 mid-term.
The public responded to the breach of faith, and the air of wackiness, with the same treatment they give today to the Tea Party element in the Republicans: the weirdos do not survive the general election. When the wackiness goes too far off course, the whole party gets dragged down.
So I am wondering whether the social, ethnic and race-conscious lefties are going to do the same “favor” to President Obama in 2013 that they did to President Clinton in the last Democratic victory that seemed to appear out of nowhere in six months: try to send Obama down avenues that are going to discourage the rest of the people who supported him (for a second go) at fixing the problems the Republicans have created.
When the talk starts out about how the President’s support came from places other than the obvious place it did, it makes me think, I’ve seen this before . . .
[Update 11/12/12: Coincidentally, New York Times just did a piece on MSNBC and the election coverage.]