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« Technically it's another postmortem, but... | Main | People buy snake oil when they don't have real medicine »

Anxiety is universal

A lot of the post election talk has been about the "white" working class, and this has set up a kind of false dichotomy where it's said that the Democrats now need to choose between addressing the "economic anxiety" of working class whites (and whether it's really "economic anxiety" or just racism) or continuing to (supposedly) stand up for civil rights. This is a bizarre false choice. No one is talking about addressing "economic anxiety" by building statues to General Lee. Even in a vacuum it should be understood that addressing the income inequality of the past 40 or so years would help everyone, and the Dems wouldn't need to give up their commitment to civil rights in order to do that. Certainly Bernie didn't.

There's also the argument that a blanket effort to improve the economy for working people would very likely help many POC communities disproportionately even if, say, a huge infrastructure spending bill didn't target them specifically. Ta-Nehisi Coates has argued that these kinds of colorblind initiatives aren't sufficient. And i agree with him when it comes to pushing candidates to support these issues. But that's all a tangent to this discussion. It's not like the Democrats are currently in favor of some kind of POC-targeted economic initiative and are being asked to give it up in order to address "white economic anxiety". The Clinton wing of the Democrats had virtually no message at all on working class economics, or even possibly a detrimental message (NAFTA/TPP), and so the choice (for now) is between nothing and a blanket program. (I will note that the Green party does support reparations.)

The "white working class" analysis is also faulty because it ignores the fact that Clinton got significantly fewer votes from African Americans than Obama did, enough alone to more than account for her losses in the Rust Belt states. These are states with significant African American populations and cities that used to have good paying factory jobs which have been devastated. When we talk about "economic anxiety" there is no reason to limit it to whites.

All the above is a set-up for me to pull some quotes from this NYT article interviewing black voters (and non-voters) in Milwaukee:

They admitted that they could not complain too much: Only two of them had voted. But there were no regrets.

"I don't feel bad," Mr. Fleming said, trimming a mustache. "Milwaukee is tired. Both of them were terrible. They never do anything for us anyway."

As Democrats pick through the wreckage of the campaign, one lesson is clear: The election was notable as much for the people who did not show up, as for those who did. Nationally, about half of registered voters did not cast ballots.

Wisconsin, a state that Hillary Clinton had assumed she would win, historically boasts one of the nation's highest rates of voter participation; this year's 68.3 percent turnout was the fifth best among the 50 states. But by local standards, it was a disappointment, the lowest turnout in 16 years. And those no-shows were important. Mr. Trump won the state by just 27,000 voters.

The biggest drop was here in District 15, a stretch of fading wooden homes, sandwich shops and fast-food restaurants that is 84 percent black. In this district, voter turnout declined by 19.5 percent from 2012 figures, according to Neil Albrecht, executive director of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission. It is home to some of Milwaukee's poorest residents and, according to a 2015 documentary, "Milwaukee 53206," has one of the nation's highest per-capita incarceration rates.

At Upper Cutz, a bustling barbershop in a green-trimmed wooden house, talk of politics inevitably comes back to one man: Barack Obama. Mr. Obama's elections infused many here with a feeling of connection to national politics they had never before experienced. But their lives have not gotten appreciably better, and sourness has set in.

"We went to the beach," said Maanaan Sabir, 38, owner of the Juice Kitchen, a brightly painted shop a few blocks down West North Avenue, using a metaphor to describe the emotion after Mr. Obama's election. "And then eight years happened."

All four barbers had voted for Mr. Obama. But only two could muster the enthusiasm to vote this time. And even then, it was a sort of protest. One wrote in Mrs. Clinton's Democratic opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The other wrote in himself.

"I'm so numb," said Jahn Toney, 45, who had written in Mr. Sanders. He said no president in his lifetime had done anything to improve the lives of black people, including Mr. Obama, whom he voted for twice. "It's like I should have known this would happen. We're worse off than before."

There are also other reasons why Hillary Clinton herself was not a good messenger, both on economic issues and in general. Her support for her husband's crime and welfare reform bills has not been forgotten.

One exception was Justin Babar, who said he voted for Mr. Trump as a protest against Mrs. Clinton. He blamed her husband's policies for putting him in prison for 20 years.

As for the claims of racism that have dogged Mr. Trump, Mr. Babar wasn't so worried. "It's better than smiling to my face but going behind closed doors and voting against our kids," he said.

By fnord12 | November 21, 2016, 8:55 AM | Liberal Outrage


Reference from SuperMegaMonkey

One of the most important post-mortems that i linked to after the election was this one, which showed that a decline in the participation of black voters was a big part of Hillary's loss. It's a factor that has been...    Read More: Low turnout among black voters