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Showing posts with label Election 2016. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Election 2016. Show all posts
Yet another look at the preferences of the 2016 black electorate - 2/10/17
I came up this evening with another way of breaking down the 2016 black electorate:

This chart does a few things that you don't usually see:

  • It distinguishes between Clintonites - general election Clinton voters who also supported her in the primaries - and Democrats - general election Clinton voters who didn't support her in the primaries. I based this proportion on typical Yougov / Economist polling, which gave Clinton about 68% of black primary voters.
  • As always, I account for non-voters. This was just a matter of subtracting all black voters from the eligible voting black population as given by Census data.
  • Finally, I made a basic attempt in this chart to account for disenfranchised black voters (D) - about 1 out of every 13 eligible black voters. I did this with the assumption that the disenfranchised populace would vote in similar proportions to the enfranchised populace, EG if half of the enfranchised stayed at home I assume that around half of the disenfranchised voters would stay at home too. This isn't an entirely reliable assumption, but we don't have any data that's more specific and it's better to at least make some minimal attempt to account for their preferences.
The big takeaway here touches on a point I made earlier today: the more you dig into the preferences of black voters, the weaker their support for Clinton actually appears. As far as I can tell, the number of black voters in the general election who supported Clinton and might not have voted for anyone else barely cracks the 30% mark. That even includes black voters who wanted to vote for her but couldn't because they were disenfranchised. The rest of all voters either preferred to stay at home, support Trump, or support a third party or independent candidate.
Some charts on generation warfare - 2/9/17
I've written quite a bit about how age and generational conflicts are playing an increasingly important role in American politics - but it occurs to me that I've never actually spelled out how this is happening. So I've put together some charts.*

First, it's worth revisiting a few polls that reveal age inflections in our political polarization:

On basically every major political question you can name, young voters are more progressive than older voters. Young voters overwhelmingly prefer Sanders to Clinton, Clinton to Trump, and Socialism to Capitalism; older voters hold the exact opposite views.

This already is a recipe for generational conflict - but on top of polarized political preferences, we are also seeing massive changes in the sizes of different generational cohorts:

By 2040 Boomers will no longer be the largest generation, and by 2046 Millennials will have assumed that role for the foreseeable future. By 2053 there will be two Millennials for every Boomer.

Of course, age-inflected political polarization and changing population sizes will only impact things like electoral outcomes insofar as anyone bothers to vote. And while this may seem like bad news for Millennials, who vote at lower rates than everyone else, voting patterns tend to change with age. As the Millennial cohort grows older, they're likely to vote more frequently. If we assume that everyone's voting habits as they grow older will tend to match the age equivalent rates of 2016, future turnout will probably look something like this:

Here, superior turnout only buys Boomers an extra year on top - they lose their electoral plurality in 1941. Millennials gain the plurality a decade later, and by 2060 they outvote every other group combined.

Suppose, then, that these political preference and turnout trends all hold for future Democratic primaries - and suppose that for the next few decades, we continue to see primaries pitting Clinton-type candidates against Sanders-type candidates. Cross reference the above trends, and this is what our future politics would look like:

What this chart tells us is that by 2039, among Americans who are currently eligible voters, support for Sanders-type candidates will completely overwhelm support for Clinton-type candidates. This model relies on some awfully big assumptions, but most of them - population growth projections and lifetime political preference retention - are grounded in fairly rigorous science. 

The most significant unknown here is whether or not Sanders-and-Clinton-style candidates continue to run in the primaries. Another crucial consideration here is that by 2039, in addition to the voters considered here, at least 90 million Americans who are currently under 18 (or are not born yet) will have become eligible voters. We can't predict this age cohort's preferences with any certainty, but if the trend of younger voters being progressive voters holds, Sanders-style candidates would be winning well before 2039.

What we can be sure of, regardless, is that the age of the Boomers is coming to an end. Their generation is rapidly shrinking, and no amount of superior turnout will save them in the long-run. I think it fairly safe to assume that they'll resent this diminished influence after a good half century of political hegemony, and that they'll leverage all of the entrenched institutional and systematic privileges and advantages that they've built for themselves over the years in order to try to retain their power. That strategy can't last forever either, however, and as the rude teen barbarians crash against the gates of old privilege, it's gonna get ugly.

* Brief note on terminology: due to constraints on available data, I've divided the population into four age brackets - 18-29, 30-44, 45-64, and 65+. These brackets correspond roughly, but not exactly, to the commonly accepted "generational" divisions (between Millennials and Gen-X, Gen-X and Boomers, and Boomers and the Silent Generation). These divisions are completely arbitrary and artificial, but the difference explains why, for example, some analysts already consider Boomers a minority generation. For the sake of this analysis this difference isn't particularly important.
Clinton and the PUMAs still debt-collecting from Obama - 1/31/17
Mike Allen, for Axios:
The worst-kept secret inside Democratic circles is how bitter Hillary Clinton's team is at President Obama over her election loss...[they are] blaming Obama - more than Putin, FBI Director James Comey or, um, Hillary herself - for the defeat. Clintonites feel that if Obama had come out early and forcefully with evidence of Russian interference in the campaign, and perhaps quicker sanctions, she might be president today. 
The persistent refusal among Clintonites to accept any responsibility for the defeat of their campaign seems easy enough to explain with the usual points about cultishness and epistemic closure - but how to explain the special resentment for Obama? Even if you insist that Putin cost Clinton the election, it seems like blatant displacement to then say that Obama, by failing to stop him, is even more responsible.

Seeing this much animus seep through the facade of solidarity with Obama and his base that Clintonites tried to present, I can't help but detect an undercurrent of pretty familiar entitlement:
[T]he sentiment, among today's PUMAs, is everywhere...Obama was an affirmative action president, and [PUMAs] expect us to "make history" again...out of some weird sense of reciprocal obligation.
If you believe that Obama did not deserve to beat Clinton in 2008, it's easy to see how you might come to think of supporting him as an unearned favor that he would, some day, need to pay back. And if you think that he missed a crucial opportunity to do so by ensuring victory for Clinton, you might very well see this as something more than incompetence - you'd be tempted to see it as a direct betrayal. This is how entitlement breeds resentment; and it's why Clintonites, to explain that resentment, have to displace blame from Putin onto the man who should have stopped him.

It is not irrelevant, of course, that this man happens to be black. Clinton's 2008 campaign was irredeemably poisoned with racial entitlement, and the polls make it clear that those attitudes and biases remain among her supporters to this very day. Given that the "Putin stole it" narrative is already heavily inflected with one form of racism, we shouldn't be surprised to find related grievances towards Obama inflected with another.
How to come up with any voter demographic argument you want - 12/2/16
A few weeks ago I posted some charts laying out the basic demographic trends of this year's presidential election. One of them looked like this:

Even though the data here is objective and indisputable, there are all kinds of different ways that you can read it if you want to measure the performance of millennials. The takes that I've seen, for the most part, largely differ based on two questions:
1. Do we care about candidate support or candidate preference? This is the difference between allowing a "neither one" vote or forcing a choice between two options. A "support" measurement cares about only about whether one actively and affirmatively backs a particular candidate; a "preference" measurement also cares about whether one in some sense opposes a particular candidate, even if one does not affirmatively back the other. There are all kinds of analytical and philosophical reasons why one might use one measure rather than the other. If for instance you're interested in latent dispositions that people don't express through their actual voting behavior, you might care more about preference; but if you want to measure things like apathy, you might care more about support. 
2. Do we want to make a static analysis or a comparative historical analysis? This is the difference between just looking at this year's numbers or placing them in the context of previous elections. A static analysis, for example, would conclude that Clinton's numbers among black voters were extraordinarily high - but a historical analysis would conclude that they were actually low compared to the past few elections. That sort of approach might be useful if, say, you suspect that there are structural / systematic issues that guarantee a baseline of demographic support for a party regardless of candidate, and are more interested in how candidates vary from that baseline; a static analysis is more useful if you reject that sort of assumption.
Crucially, millennial performance in 2016 will look quite different depending on what we decide to measure:
Reading the numbers in a way that flatters or blames millennials is really just a matter of picking the right analytical lens. If you want to attack millennials, do a 2016 support analysis, or a 2016 vs 2012 preference analysis; if you want to praise them, do a 2016 preference analysis, or a 2016 vs 2012 support analysis. These approaches are all perfectly rigorous and legitimate, as far as they go, even though they can give you dramatically different outcomes.

Obviously, coming up with some kind of objective and dispositive conclusion about millennial performance in 2016 is less a matter of (fairly straightforward) number-crunching, and more a matter of defending analytical methodology. This means grappling with all kinds of extremely thorny philosophical and poli-sci controversies about agency, culpability, structural determination, and so on - the kinds of controversies in play when we asked the two basic questions above.

That the overwhelming majority of election analysis doesn't even pretend to care about such issues says everything you need to know about how serious one should take them. In reality, most of our election punditry is just a matter of deciding on a conclusion and then back-filling the corresponding analytical approach, with zero attention to the decisive methodological questions at hand.
2016 was the apathy election - 11/12/16
In the wake of the 2016 elections, pundits are poring through the exit polls to tease out the preferences of various key identitarian demographics. As I've noted in the past, however, these analyses almost invariably leave out a significant preference in American politics: the preference not to vote for either major candidate. If we hope to gain some kind of insight into how various groups think about American politics, we have to take into account the possibility that they may simply not care whether one candidate or the other wins. For that reason, I've been digging through the numbers and am going to break them down here into four main groups: gender, race, age, and income.*

From 2012 to 2016, both men and women went from caring about the outcome to not caring. Among Democratic men and women, as well as Republican women, care levels dropped about 3-4 points; Republican men cared a little less too, but only by one point. Across the board, in any case, the plurality of voters simply didn't care.

White voters cared even less in 2016 then in 2012, when they also didn't care; most of that apathy came from white Republicans compared to white Democrats, who dropped off a little less. Voters of color, in contrast, continued to care - but their care levels dropped even more, by 8 points (compared to the 6 point drop-off among white voters). Incredibly, that drop was driven entirely by a 9 point drop among Democratic voters of color which left Democrats with only slim majority 51% support; Republicans, meanwhile, actually gained support among people of color.

The story when we break down the vote by age is more complicated, though across the board everyone cared less about the outcome than they did in 2012. Care levels dropped most dramatically among the elderly (-12) and Gen-Xers (-10), who went from caring to not caring this year. Neither of those drops was significantly inflected by party. Boomers, predictably, were the only age demographic who continued to care, and were also the only age demographic where support for Republicans increased; support for Democrats, meanwhile, dropped by 3 points. Millennial care levels also dropped significantly, driven mostly by disinterest in the Democrat (though they also cared less about the Republican, too).

Again, the same pattern holds: everyone cared less this time around. Here, deterioration of support is clearly driven by class. Among poorer demographics, Republicans mostly held the line, while Clinton only had minor losses among richer demographics. The big hit for Clinton came among the lower two brackets (losing 7 and 6 points, respectively), while the big hit for Trump came among the rich (-8). 

The major trend in 2016 was one of increasingly apathy. Within that broader trend, the demographic patterns are muddy. Deviations in relatively support from group to group don't map well onto the standard media narratives that dominated this election; for example, apathy grew more among women and voters of color than among men and white voters. Among the candidates, Clinton either broke even or lost support among every single demographic group, while Trump won support among voters of color and boomers. 

Ultimately, Trump managed to stem his losses among men, the poor, and millennials - and among boomers and voters of color he actually improved the GOP's numbers. Clinton, meanwhile, lost voters in every demographic across the board; she took major hits among voters of color and the poor, and only managed to minimize her losses among wealthier voters. Trump took his largest hit among those same wealthiest voters, but it turns out that pandering to the rich while abandoning the poor just isn't a winning strategy.

* All numbers are based on Edison exit polling cross-referenced with total population numbers from the US Census.
Trump's GoFundMe donors did more to help Trump in North Carolina than Jill Stein - 11/11/16
It's simple arithmetic:
These aren't surprising numbers. A cost of $5.11 per vote is just slightly lower than the average $7 that winners spent in 2008 House races, and Trump ran an extraordinarily cost-efficient campaign. The more controversial question is how much of the GoFundMe funding we can consider a direct investment in the Trump campaign. I would argue that we have to include all of it, since our concern here is risk: Trump may have not have benefited from all of that money, but he could have. Even if we only want to count a fraction of it, though, it doesn't end up mattering.

That's because according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections, Jill Stein only earned 692 votes. So even if we only give half of the GoFundMe total to Trump - or even a third - they still did more to elect him than Stein voters did.

By the way, it's worth adding here that the 1:1 correspondence between a vote for Trump and a vote for Stein is itself analytically dubious; as David Roberts noted earlier this year, a vote for Stein is at worst a half-vote for Trump, not a full one. If we accept this distinction, then we should divide Stein's vote total by two when comparing it to donations to Trump. So now we have two variables: how much of the GoFundMe total we give to Trump, and whether we count Stein votes as half votes or full votes. Again, the arithmetic is completely straightforward:

So depending on your assumptions, the GoFundMe may have had around seven times the impact on Trump's numbers that Jill Stein did - and regardless of your assumptions, it certainly at least had more of an impact.

Ultimately, Trump won North Carolina by such a wide margin (177,529 votes) that neither Stein nor the GoFundMe decided the outcome - but of course, we hardly knew this at the time. In fact, the polling had North Carolina so close that Nate Silver ranked it fourth among his "tipping point" states, with an 11.2% chance of deciding the election. If you give the GoFundMe donors a pass on this, you have to give a pass to Stein voters in virtually every other state, where their odds of deciding the election were far less significant. Only in Florida, Pennyslvania, and Michigan can Trump's GoFundMe donors even possibly claim any kind of moral high ground over Stein voters, and even then the claim is hilariously tenuous at best.
Nothing polite to say - 11/10/16
Earlier this year, the Bernie Sanders campaign made a few comments that earned more media coverage than most of his actual platform. First, in late January, rapid response director Mike Casca advised in a tweet that "if you support @berniesanders, please follow the senator's lead and be respectful when people disagree with you." And just a couple weeks later on CNN, Sanders himself added, "Look, anybody who is supporting me that is doing the sexist things is—we don’t want them."

Predictably, Clinton partisans seized on both comments as evidence that the campaign was "very concerned", not just about potential sexism, but about "trolling" and the generally "cultish behavior of his supporters". That's what Jamil Smith wrote - neatly echoing the campaign's plan to insist that "Sanders supporters are flooding the internet with troubling comments about women" (a necessary line of criticism "since most of our attacks haven't been working"). And now, of course, we know that Smith wrote this just weeks after coordinating with the campaign to roll out "Bernie hits...without [their] fingerprints".

The so-called "Bernie Bro" controversy, it turns out, was always more complicated than it appeared. As many of us were at pains to point out, it was always an exaggerated and cynically hyped smear campaign by Clinton. But here, I want to point out that even the Sanders response has to be understood cynically - as an attempt to parry political attacks, win the Democratic nomination, and defeat Donald Trump.

In fact, today we can be fairly certain that the Sanders campaign was privately just as infuriated by Clinton as her critics, the notorious Bernie Bros. One reason we know this is that Sanders has admitted it himself:
Trust me, if they went into our emails...I’m sure there would be statements that would be less than flattering about, you know, the Clinton staff.
It's pretty easy to understand why they would be angry: by just about every metric imaginable, Hillary Clinton led one of the worst presidential campaigns in modern history. It was a profoundly reactionary campaign, built entirely on rolling back the horizons of the politically possible, fracturing left solidarity, undermining longstanding left priorities like universal healthcare, pandering to Wall Street oligarchs, fomenting nationalism against Denmark and Russia, and rehabilitating some of history's greatest monsters - from Bush I to Kissinger. It was a grossly unprincipled campaign that belligerently violated FEC Super PAC coordination rules and conspired with party officials on everything from political attacks to debate questions. It was an obscenely stupid campaign that all but ignored Wisconsin during the general election, that pitched Clinton to Latino voters as their abuela, that centered an entire high-profile speech over the national menace of a few thousand anime nazis on Twitter, and that repeatedly deployed Lena Dunham as a media surrogate.

But Clinton's campaign wasn't just reactionary, unprincipled, and stupid; it was also doomed. Obviously doomed. Until the bitter end, the Clinton campaign and its partisans projected an absolutely triumphalist front of inevitability; even its most "pessimistic" apparatchiks, like BNR blogger Sarah Kendzior were still predicting "an ultimate HRC win" just hours before she lost. In contrast, by May, the Sanders campaign was already warning that "Hillary Clinton... [is] deeply unpopular" and questioning her ability to win "key battleground states like Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania". (She only needed two; in the end, she lost all three.)

This was a point the Bernie Bros - with increasing urgency, desperation, and yes, even anger - made time and time again. For my part, I cannot even begin to convey how horrific it was to watch pundits relentlessly hype Clinton's electability, even to the point of implying that skeptics about this were racists:
[E]lectability is much more important to black and Latino voters than it is to whites...[Clinton] has the strong backing of those who are the most dispossessed and threatened. Why is it we hear so...little about [this]? I’ll leave you to ponder that one on your own.
As it turns out, one reason we heard little about black and Latino confidence in Clinton is that she lost 5% of the former and 6% of the latter from 2012. Even during the primaries it was clear to me that Clinton was already having trouble turning out black voters, and that this reflected a whole range of serious, underlying problems:
Black little faith in the government in general: a majority (58%) say that "the government is pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves" (21% report not sure); a majority (52%) say that "most of the time" special interests are "able to get what they want by contributing money to political campaigns" (22% report not sure); and a majority (57%) report that politicians "lie to get elected" (6% report not sure). Moreover, Pew reports that only 41% of black Americans believe "that voting gives people some say in how government runs things and that ordinary citizens can do a lot to influence the government in Washington".
These were the kinds of points that Bernie Bros made time and time again: that Clinton's strength among women and voters of color was being dramatically exaggerated; that her weakness among young people was a serious liability; that third-party attrition was a marginal problem at worst; and so on. These were points we made constantly, aggressively, and even obsessively, to anyone who would listen, and even when no one would. And when elites like Tomasky, or political operatives like Smith, smugly dismissed us as trolls and bigots, we just made these points with increasing exasperation, and yes, even belligerence - because we saw exactly what was happening and how it would end.

As Trump takes office, I simply cannot imagine the sheer infantile pettiness and conflict aversion it would take to begrudge anyone their anger about this. Just as Sanders had to issue token apologies to defang the cynical Bernie Bro smear campaign against his candidacy, so today his role as the de facto standard bearer of the American left demands a certain degree of decorum. For the rest of us Bernie Bros, there may be nothing polite to say about what the Clinton campaign has done to our country - but god help us if we don't raise hell.
Hillary Clinton's incrementolution - 11/3/16
Dylan Matthews's latest for Vox, Hillary Clinton's quiet revolution, has successfully trolled me. Congratulations out of the way, let's compare the two ways that Matthews talks about liberal politics in general and Clinton in particular. On one hand,

  • Clinton often gets described as an incrementalist, with a relatively modest agenda. This makes sense...
  • "I think a lot of Clinton's proposals are very much a step..."
  • Clinton does not get the US up to European standards...she moves the ball forward...
  • It's doubtful that [Clinton's] reforms would get to 100 percent universal coverage...
  • Her plan for universal pre-K for 4-year olds is almost the definition of a's one year closer...
  • Clinton would take an important step towards...
  • "I see a lot of her proposals as moving in the direction of..."
  • Clinton's policies go a long way toward...
  • The sheer ambition of Clinton's agenda...really did pale in scale to that of her primary opponent...
  • Her plan is full of...tweaks of existing policy rather than...big overhauls...
  • Clinton is, at root, a pragmatist within the system...She doesn't propose totally overhauling the way it does taxation; she proposes tweaks and nudges and expansions of existing programs.

On the other hand,
  • This is not incrementalism.

Say what you will about the substance of Matthews' policy analysis, but it's pretty bizarre for him to insist that the way other people depict Clintonian incrementalism "misleads more than it informs." What does it inform us of to insist that her politics are not incremental - even as we describe them in terms of taking steps, moving the ball forward, tweaks and nudges, and so on? How does this not mislead the reader?

That, of course, is the point: Matthews didn't write this article to clarify anything, but rather to muddy the waters, and grant Clinton the prestige of revolution while openly insisting that she is not revolutionary in any coherent sense. Left and liberal wonks will have plenty of fun relitigating the familiar policy and strategic debates touched upon in this piece, but tethering all of that to iconoclastic redefinitions of "incremental" and "revolutionary" betrays some profound ideological weakness. Matthews trying to rebrand liberalism as "a minimal viable product of social democracy" reads like nothing so much as Charles C.W. Cooke trying to rebrand himself as "conservatarian" after both "conservative" and "libertarian" got too embarrassing. With Vox trying to sell Clinton as both an incrementalist and a revolutionary, can incrementolution be far behind?
Relax - or, Why I Will Not Be Voting For Hillary Clinton - 11/2/16
Back in 2011, as Republicans hard-balled Obama by refusing to raise the debt-ceiling and the president moved ever-closer to capitulating to their demands, it occurred to me, "You know who'd put up a better fight than this? Hillary Clinton."

This, in fact, had been a central premise of her 2008 campaign: Obama was a naive optimist who didn't understand the realities of partisan warfare, while Clinton was a hardened political veteran with no illusions about Republican good faith. At the time, a common left position was that Obama should either call the GOP's bluff, refuse to negotiate, and let Republicans take the blame for a national default - or that he should aggressively finesse the problem with all kinds of legal maneuvers, like minting a trillion dollar coin. I wondered if, perhaps, Clinton would have the inclination and political courage to do what Obama wouldn't; I suspected that, just maybe, she might.

Largely for this reason, I occasionally wondered if perhaps Clinton would have made a better president than Obama. Not because of any significant ideological difference between the two - as I've written for years, "Clinton, like Obama, is a liberal state capitalist" - but simply because Clinton, unlike Obama, is instinctively combative. Sometimes you can do better with a good negotiator who aims low than a mediocre negotiator who aims a little higher.

Since then, three things began to change my assessment of Clinton.

First and foremost came my gradual realization that the so-called "McConnell strategy" was working. This was not always a sure thing; particularly during the debt ceiling crisis, it seemed to me entirely possible that absolute obstruction could become a major political liability for Republicans, and that they would be punished for it at the polls. Yet the backlash never came, and today it seems to me that the GOP has no reason to abandon its strategy. Which means that the major difference I saw between Clinton and Obama - negotiating competence - is basically moot. The GOP's intransigence completely negates whatever advantages as a politician Clinton may have over her predecessor, and in fact they've already telegraphed their plans to escalate their obstruction to unprecedented levels.

The second thing to change my assessment of Clinton has been the rise of Donald Trump and the utterly ineffectual response by American liberals. Academically, I knew that this is how it works: the postwar left was quite explicit about the impotence of liberalism before fascism, and even some of our more insightful liberals long recognized the uniquely decadent impotence of the modern Democratic establishment. But watching Clinton and other liberals victim-blame black, Latino and Muslim protesters for defending themselves at Trump rallies; watching Clinton and other liberals routinely misrepresent racism as a problem that doesn't afflict the rich; and watching wealthy Democrats even go so far as to fundraise for Donald Trump, it's become clear to me just how close to the precipice of fascism we are, and how little liberals will do to stop it. Democrats, of course, have tried to hype this danger as the reason we must vote for them - but even if Clinton wins tomorrow, this behavior proves that it is only, with modern liberalism, a matter of time until the next Trump wins.

The third thing to change my assessment of Clinton has been the sheer extremity of aggression of her campaign against the American left. As I wrote a while back:
Not only do the Clintons disagree with left politics - they clearly see the movement left as a political enemy that they need to actively destroy...Practically speaking, this means that Clinton is likely to invest more time, energy, resources and political capital into attacking the left than Obama did. 
Perhaps most damning on this count has been mounting proof that Clinton successfully co-opted the Democratic Party itself into a campaign arm against Bernie Sanders, leaving the left with no democratic voice within the two major parties. The notion that the left ever had any road to power within the Democratic Party was always mostly a rhetorical sham, but with even the pretense of fair cooperation and competition among the liberal-left now jettisoned by party elites, it would be madness to view liberals as anything more than the enemy of an enemy.

These three considerations - insurmountable Republican obstruction, the rise of fascism, and broken faith with the left as allies - have all conspired to push me away from Hillary Clinton. It didn't have to be this way. Had Obama shown the will to overcome the McConnell strategy instead of capitulating to it, or had the Clinton demonstrated anything more than ambivalence about winning back Congress, I might placed some value in her skill as a politician. Had Clinton and her liberal allies shown a serious appreciation for the danger of fascism - rather than simply using it as a threat to cow the left into submission - I might have some confidence in the Democratic party's ability to ward off future challenges. If Clinton had won clean against Sanders (which I believe she probably would have!) instead of betraying the solidarity of the American left, I might have had some reason to move forward as an equal partner in the Democratic Party.

And here's the twist: despite all of this, I still might have voted for Clinton. But when I look at Clinton's numbers today in my home state, this is what I see:

And all of the drama over lesser-evilism and the privilege of people who spoil elections becomes completely academic. For the overwhelming majority of Americans, these endless strategic / semiotic debates about what one's vote means and what it says about you are statistically irrelevant, because for most of us, our vote - as a matter of basic probability - won't change anything. If you live in Florida, North Carolina, or Ohio, feel free to bite your nails and brood over this as much as you like. But if you live in New York, or Washington DC, or really any state where either candidate's lead is well outside the margin of error - if you live in any of these states, and you're feeling anxious - do yourself a favor, and let go of the paranoia that your vote is going to be the one that matters. It won't.

Personally, I have an old Beavis and Butthead pog that I've taped two names to: Stein on one side, La Riva on the other. Depending on how motivated I feel tomorrow, I'll stop by my polling station and flip a coin.
Clinton's coordination with journalists is normal and good, which is why they hide it - 10/21/16
Wikileaks has published correspondence documenting the Clinton campaign's efforts to disseminate "Bernie hits" using "people who can help push this behind the scenes without our fingerprints." Among other things, this involved "working with bloggers and columnists to write about this from a [specific] perspective, including a few people who joined us on a call [specifically] to talk about the 'Bernie Backlash'".

Note the interpolations. I added them to highlight a point that one can miss without a close reading: the Clinton campaign is only "working with blogger and columnists to write" specific things from specific perspectives. This is not, that is to say, journalists coming up with their own takes and then pursuing them in an interview - it's textbook scoop laundering.

The emerging defense here seems to be that scoop laundering is actually normal and good. Suffice to say that this isn't the position Olivia Nuzzi took when she was "pitched a story about bernie bros by Hillary's camp". This isn't the position the Burlington Free Press took earlier this year when the Clinton campaign tried to pitch stories that "hit Bernie on guns". By the way, here's what it looks like when the campaign scoop launders stories to hit Bernie on guns:
Here's the draft, which I edited and can personalize depending on who we want to use as an author. A survivor of gun violence? An advocate or family member? If we can find someone, and if folks want, we could get this posted today to Medium in someone's name (not us).
Which is exactly what they did - here's the virtually identical article. I have no doubt that if you asked Lasher about this, she would insist that there was nothing wrong with what she did, that the essay drafted by the Clinton campaign just-so-happened to correspond with what she would have said independently, that no, she wasn't paid to do this, and that all of this is perfectly normal and good. Still, one can't help but wonder why the Clinton campaign insisted on doing such normal and good things "behind the scenes without our fingerprints."
Clay Shirky opposes acts of political principle and conscience - except when they support Trump - 10/16/16
A while back, Clay Shirky wrote a piece arguing that There's No Such Thing As A Protest Vote, where he rehearsed the familiar liberal argument that we should judge protest voting based on its practical outcomes - not on abstract principles or appeals to conscience:
People who believe in protest votes do so because they confuse sending a message with receiving one...But it doesn’t matter what message you think you are sending...People who plan to throw away their vote on Option C usually argue that their imagined protest won’t be futile...[but] none of the proposed theories of change change anything...
Throwing away your vote on a message no one will hear, and which will change no outcome, is sometimes presented as ‘voting your conscience’, but that’s got it exactly backwards; your conscience is what keeps you from doing things that feel good to you but hurt other people.
I've already taken on this odd theory that protest votes are inconsequential, but here I'd like to make a different point: Shirky isn't some kind of results-oriented pragmatist. Shirky does not actually ground his politics in the ruthless logic of the two-party binary choice. Shirky is not operating in some kind of post-ideological space outside of the dictates of principle and conscience. Shirky is an alt-centrist, and it's that ideology that brings him to do stuff like this:

Let's be clear: Shirky can rationalize giving the Trump campaign money by appealing to all kinds of principles. He can argue that he is "sending a message" to whoever attacked Trump's office. He can argue that helping out any campaign that was victimized by a violent attack is just "the right thing to do", and that we should listen to our conscience and follow his lead. If you happen to agree with Shirky's principles, or if you want to "send a message" for the sake of symbolism, or if your conscience is prevailing upon you to give your money to Trump, you might find these kinds of arguments persuasive.

What Shirky cannot do, however, is claim any kind of consequentialist high-ground over protest voters. By the accounting of most political scientists, Shirky's investment in the Trump campaign has certainly just bought him votes. The zero-sum logic of FPTP voting combined with the realities of campaign finance leave us no way around this conclusion. In fact, at this point, the self-identified Democrats who've donated $13,167 to the fund have now bought Trump anywhere between 75 and 2,633 votes. One can plead that this money is exclusively to be spent on the rebuilding effort, but obviously this is just an accounting designation, and any money that gets donated to the rebuilding fund is money that won't come from Trump or the NC GOP.

By any electoral calculus, the material support these Democrats have just given Trump far outweighs the marginal impact your typical protest voter will have by (say) supporting Stein on social media or voting for her next month. But the odds that they will receive even a fraction of the criticism that protest voters have endured are approximately zero.
Why do Trump voters say they support Trump? - 10/15/16
Dylan Matthews, in a new piece for Vox, is back to rejecting "the idea that [Trump] voters are motivated by economic struggles". This time around, he has a new argument:
Taking Trump voters' concerns seriously means listening to what they're actually saying...describing these people as motivated by racial resentment...[is] supported by extensive amounts of social scientific research and indeed by the statements of Trump's supporters themselves. 
This, of course, is supposed to cleverly turn on its head the notion that we're being empathetic when we acknowledge that economic anxiety may play a role in motivating Trump voters. Which might seem like a nuance that avoids completely demonizing them - but in fact, Matthews argues, such explanations are "insulting" because they don't take "the stated concerns of Trump voters...seriously in the slightest." In fact, if we take Trump voters seriously, we should dismiss these personal theories of motivation and take them at their word when they say they're motivated by racism.

Fair enough. But if Matthews wants to lean on deference to other perspectives, why does he then invoke "social scientific research" in addition to "the statements of Trump's supporters themselves"?

These two things are not the same! Almost exclusively, however, Matthews relies on a collection of studies that statistically correlate support for Trump with various indicators of racism, and on his inference about the "message this research sends". It's true that those indicators are usually self-reported racism - people making statements like "if black people would only try harder they could be just as well off as white people", for example. But from this evidence, researchers are concluding that one thing motivates the other, and pundits are concluding that one exclusively motivates the other. These may be defensible conclusions about the evidence, but they are not, as Matthews suggests, the conclusions of the respondents themselves.

That distinction is crucial, because Matthews is not making an argument about rigor, but about deference. He wants to cast people who see an economic role in support for Trump as ideologues who are even ignoring the explanations that Trump voters give for their own politics - that way, he gets to turn around the empathy argument so often wielded against liberals who are accused of ignoring economic hardship.

But to pull off that move, you would have to rely on what Trump voters are explicitly saying about their own motivations. And that point is fairly clear: when asked "why they support their candidate", 76% of Trump voters credit his "views on the economy", while only 28% credit his "views on race relations". The single tweet Matthews offers as evidence that "it's not about economics" doesn't somehow overthrow these results.

Personally, I think it's pretty ridiculous to defer to the theories Trump voters give about their own motivations. For example, when only 28% say they're motivated by his views on race, I suspect that the long-understood problem of social desirability bias is coming into play and that a lot of them are being dishonest. I also suspect that when 78% credit Trump's "views on terrorism" for their support, what they actually mean are his views on Muslims and other minorities, meaning that the role of racism is actually much higher than 28% suggests. Additionally, I also suspect that Trump supporters are unlikely to even realize when they're motivated by implicit racism, even though that almost certainly plays a huge role in their politics. These are all good reasons why we should not "take the stated concerns of Trump voters...seriously" in the sense of allowing them to discredit a more sophisticated analysis.

But of course, when we pursue a more sophisticated analysis, we often get more sophisticated conclusions. Thus for example, in the same Gallup study that Matthews thinks "confirms" his analysis, the author explicitly affirms the role of economic factors in Trumpism: the evidence, he writes, indicates "support for the idea that Trump supporters are less prosperous than others" and he goes on to speculate that "material circumstances caused by economic shocks...are the true underlying causes."

Acknowledging a role for economics in the Trump candidacy does not, of course, preclude a role for racism as well - and as Jeff Spross points out, that was never the left argument to begin with. Regardless, Trump voters are obviously not telling us to rule out economic motivations, and even if they did, it would be ridiculous to defer to their analysis.
Perhaps Trump is a good opportunity to rethink presidential democracy -
Most liberal-left discussion of Donald Trump's candidacy has focused, at least implicitly, on keeping him (and similar candidates) out of the White House. Predictably, that goal usually dictates the standard two-pronged agenda of American activism. On one hand, we are enjoined to remedy the various socioeconomic pathologies (economic anxiety, white ethno-nationalism, and so on) that created Trump's constituency in the first place; on the other hand, we have to fight him for the presidency itself.

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that this framing of the liberal-left agenda is so popular in an election year - it neatly advances the theory that we need to elect a progressive president, one who can both keep Trump out of office and fight the socioeconomic conditions that led to his candidacy. Every one of his electoral opponents, of course, is necessarily making this sort of argument, and the media will predictably let the way politicians talk about politics dictate their coverage.

There is, however, an alternative that neither the Clinton nor Stein campaigns are likely to ever bring up: we get rid of the presidency altogether.

Yet that's precisely the solution that came to mind this morning when I re-read Juan Linz's The Perils of Presidentialism, available in full here. In that classic essay, Linz weighs the advantages and disadvantages of presidential against parliamentary democracy, and concludes that "the odds that presidentialism will help preserve democracy are far less favorable."

What is truly striking is how closely Linz's nightmare scenarios for democracy correspond with the dangers posed by candidates like Trump. He notes, for example, the
risk that [the president] will tend to conflate his supporters with "the people" as a whole...[this may] bring on a refusal to acknowledge the limits of the mandate that even a majority - to say nothing of a mere plurality - can claim as democratic justification for the enactment of its agenda. The doleful potential for displays of cold indifference, disrespect, or even downright hostility toward the opposition is not to be scanted...
This risk is fostered by the very nature of the presidency - thus, we even see it realized in candidates like Clinton, whose partisans routinely invoke the rhetoric of democratic consensus while marginalizing the opposition's agenda as (to quote Linz) "the selfish design of narrow interests". That move has some particularly ominous precedents when the Clinton campaign starts leaning heavily on nationalistic paranoia about meddling foreign agents.

If that dynamic is detectable in Clinton's campaign, however, it's ramped up to eleven in Trump's, which is built entirely on contrasting the will of "real Americans" with the sinister machinations of all kinds of out-groups (Muslims, terrorists, immigrants, Jews, and so on). And dangerously, the mandate of "Real America", in the eyes of the Trump right, is their license for a draconian eliminationist politics, which includes everything from religious tests at the border to assaulting political protesters.

These essentially fascist currents in American politics are in no small part driven by the battle over the presidency, which many people see as their only vehicle for exercising political agency. As Linz continues,
...a president bids fair to become the focus for whatever exaggerated expectations his supporters may harbor. They are prone to think that he has more power than he really has or should have and may sometimes be politically mobilized against any adversaries who bar his way. The interaction between a popular president and the crowd acclaiming him can generate fear among his opponents and a tense political climate.
Again, this cuts both ways. The 2016 election has clearly become the locus of intense anxiety for millions of Americans, who see the whole of their political fates bound up in a single decision. It may be Clinton's politics that causes the right to fear gun confiscation, Sharia law, high taxes, and so on - but it is the expansive power of the presidency that makes them fear that she might actually be able to do all of this, and that incites them to express intense, boundless fear and paranoia as radical enthusiasm for Trump. Meanwhile, that same enormous power seduces Trump supporters into seeing him as the silver bullet for all of their problems, and cultivates intense frustration and disappointment when he encounters obstacles to victory.

These incentives aren't unique to Trump supporters - partisans for Clinton are driven by many of the same anxieties. Suffice to say that this is not how you have to arrange your democracy. In a parliamentary democracy, political struggle is diffused into a larger number of electoral decisions, which has the paradoxical effect of lowering the stakes and diluting the toxin of social conflict.

Obviously, while a presidential system may amplify democratic discord and express it in fundamentally dangerous ways, the presidency isn't the exclusive source of conflict in the United States. The familiar problems of poverty, inequality, racism, sexism, and so on are all contributing to polarization and the rise of extremism in the United States. But this isn't a counterpoint to Linz's argument - in fact, it simply affirms it. Repeatedly, the author points to the United States as the major exception to the historical rule of instability and dysfunction in presidential democracies. But there is, Linz argues, a reason why the US has been able to make it work:
the uniquely diffuse character of American political parties - which, ironically, exasperates many American political scientists and leads them to call for responsible, ideologically disciplined parties - has something to do with it... In countries where the preponderance of voters is centrist, agrees on the exclusion of extremists, and expects both rightist and leftist candidates to differ only within a larger, moderate consensus, the divisiveness latent in presidential competition is not a serious problem. 
In other words, the rise of Trump likely bodes the end of the presidential system, one way or another. Either we replace it with a more democratic parliamentary system, or we watch political polarization turn the presidency into an increasingly undemocratic institution incapable of mediating social conflict. For obvious reasons, if we prefer the former outcome, we probably ought not rely on presidential candidates to fight for it.

How do gender *and* age shape the electoral college? - 10/12/16
Yesterday, Nate Silver posted a widely-disseminated article aspiring to show how the 2016 election would play out if only men or women voted. Predictably, the election swings deep blue when only women vote, and bright red when only men vote. Out of curiosity, I used Reuter's new States of the Nation tool to take a quick look at this year's age gap, and while the results were similarly predictable, this approach encounters three significant problems. First, the tool only allows one to drill down to the 18-30 year old bracket, which excludes Millennials ages 31-34. Second, a lot of the sample sizes are too small to produce reliable data, which means that even states like South Carolina (with 9 electoral votes) can't be called. And third, 538 used a completely different methodology to produce its maps:
Here’s a quick way to estimate it. In the polls I cited above, Clinton is doing 10 points better among women than among the electorate overall. So we’ll add 10 points to her current polls-only margin in every state to forecast her performance if women were the only ones who could vote.
This is a pretty fast-and-loose approach that I don't have much confidence in, but it at least makes it easy to make some apples-to-apples comparisons. So relying on the 538 approach, here's what the election looks like if only Millennials voted:

In a youth election, Trump is held to single digit electoral votes, and Clinton wins every state except two: Wyoming, and Nebraska's third district. Compare this to what happens if no Millennials vote:

Here, Clinton still manages a win, but Arizona, Iowa, North Carolina, and Maine's second district all swing into Trump's column. More likely, this could threaten Democratic hopes of capturing the Senate by allowing Republicans to keep control of seats in Indiana and Wisconsin - both states Democrats hope to flip.

The conclusions here are pretty straightforward:
  • In the electoral college, at least, the gender gap is bigger than the age gap: there is a 270 vote swing from men to women, compared to a 213 vote swing from olds to millennials.
  • These gaps create significantly different outcomes, however, because they're centered at different points: women are more reactionary than millennials, and men are more reactionary than olds.
These points raise an interesting intersectional question: how do age and gender combine to influence electoral outcomes? To answer this, the first thing we need to do is break down the vote margins for every combination of old and young men and women, which gives us a table like this:

Already, it should be completely obvious that age ends up playing a far more important role in predicting preference than gender. Trump has a slight advantage among old men, and because of the sheer number of olds voting, it's easy to look at the electoral college and conclude that this pattern holds for all age groups. But in fact, not only does this pattern not hold among millennials - it actually reverses, so that Clinton has an 8.4 point advantage among millennial men compared to millennial women. Even among millennial women, however, Clinton's advantage is astronomically larger than it is among old women, who actually do .2 points worse than the national average.

If we look at how these differences would play out in the electoral college, it's clear where Trump's support comes from and where Clinton's support comes from. Among older women, Clinton would actually lose an electoral vote in Maine's second district. And among young men, Clinton wins every electoral vote except one, in Nebraska's third district. It's youth that most powerfully predicts support for Clinton, with gender proving unreliable at best.
Trump's tape vindicates the left-feminist critique of liberalism - 10/8/16
Donald Trump's [latest] inflammatory remarks, just publicized from a 2005 recording, have sparked an extraordinary and much-deserved political backlash - even within his own party. A lot of the outrage has simply been directed at the "extremely lewd" character of his remarks, as when he calls a woman "a bitch" and ridicules her "phony tits"; some critics have been most offended by the "vile degradation" of "hitting on married women"; others have criticized his "boasts about sexual assaults".

One aspect of Trump's comments that has been largely overlooked, however, is his explicit admission of the way that power licenses his odious behavior:
When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything...grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.
The few responses to this have been telling. When Joe Biden decries such behavior as "an abuse of power", he isn't actually criticizing the power that lets people like Trump "do anything" - he's simply condemning its "abuse". And within capitalism, Kash CEO Kaz Nejatian insists, this is the approach we must take:

This is a decisively liberal feminism: one that takes hierarchies of power for granted. Within liberal feminism, the opportunity to abuse power must be defended, and even the opportunity to abuse women; if your "freedom" to acquire ungovernable economic power puts women at risk, so be it. Liberal feminism allows us to do things like "condemn" patriarchy, and shame it - but any collective action that actually mobilizes the arm of the state is prohibited, as this would be an imposition on "freedom". Contrast this to this second approach, proposed by Matt Karp:

Unlike Biden and Nejatian, Karp is actually prioritizing the danger posed by Trump. For obvious reasons, the VP and CEO are both first and foremost interested in preserving hierarchy, and only within that framework are they willing to consider the safety of women. But when Trump says that it is power that allows him to "do anything", Karp takes this seriously, and concludes that people should not have the kind of power Trump has if it puts women at risk. If this is a problem for capitalism or an imposition on the freedom of men to "abuse power", so be it.

Obviously, as Karp's own formulation suggests, the "extinction of the billionaire class" alone can't solve the problem of patriarchy; things like shaming have a role to play, too. But a feminism that exclusively relies on the latter because it prioritizes the preservation of billionaires over the preservation of women hardly deserves the name feminism; it's just capitalism with a "feminist" brand.
Harold Myerson thinks we have a white racist millennial Clinton-defector problem. He's wrong. - 10/6/16
I anticipated this in my previous article, but since Harold Myerson is making the argument directly, I'd like to shoot it down directly:
Hillary Clinton is still having trouble winning the allegiance of the apt description of the millennials holding out for the third-party candidates: They’re all white...a hard core of young, white Bernie-or-Busters may yet believe that voting for Stein, or even Johnson, is an expression of their disdain for the system.
As noted, Clinton is not actually having trouble winning the allegiance of millennials - she's winning about 53% of them, compared with a minority of 38.9% among olds. Meanwhile, a plurality 39.3% of olds are voting for Trump, compared to just 24.7% of millennials. Clinton does not have a millennial problem - she has an old people problem, and a millennial solution. Analytically breaking down these age groups into conveniently gerrymandered sub-demographics (white millennials! third-party defector millennials! white third party defector millennials!) does nothing to contest the broader, obvious age trend; it just makes one's analysis increasingly narrow, and increasingly irrelevant.

Faced with these brute numbers, Myerson now only has one possible move: to compare today's young voters with those from 2012. But if we do that, the second premise of his argument collapses: Myerson wants to blame "white skin privilege" for the failure to support Clinton, but if the last election is our baseline, it's young people of color who are running from the Democratic party. He can, that is to say, only salvage his critique of millennials by abandoning his critique of white people, and vice versa.

A second problem with Myerson's race critique is that he repeatedly tries to make it into a specific critique of leftists. He opens with an anecdote about Stein and Sanders supporters; he quotes an organizer who singles out Sanders supporters; and he closes by once again brooding about the notorious "Bernie-or-Busters".

But to do this, he has to play fast-and-loose with the numbers, and in a way that strikes me as pretty deliberate. Consider, for example, the crux of his argument, which the article even highlights in a pull-quote:
Presumably, this 2% discrepancy demonstrates some kind of white privilege among leftist voters. That's why it's interesting that he omits a directly relevant fact: the same poll reports that Stein is also at 4% among Latinx and Asian Americans. An even more interesting point is that he includes those same numbers when he reports on Gary Johnson, who has the backing of "15 percent of whites...but just 8 percent of Latinos, 6 percent of Asian Americans, and 4 percent of African Americans." Comparatively, it seems clear that white supremacy is far and away the province of young libertarian voters, and that there is no detectable third-party voting trend that's unique to young white leftists; it also looks a lot like Myerson erased Stein's support among Asians and Latinxs precisely to obscure this point.

Finally, it's worth putting the millennial attrition issue into perspective. When Myerson notes that Stein and Johnson have 4% and 11% of the millennial vote, one's tempted to conclude that this amounts to 15% of the youth vote for Clinton. But in fact, as YouGov reports, only 35% of third party voters under 30 say that they prefer Clinton to Trump - meaning that she's really only losing about 5% of the youth vote to third parties. And since there's no significant evidence that this 5% is disproportionately white, it's hard to escape the impression that Myerson is accusing young leftists of racism for no good reason, while ignoring support for Trump in how own generation that's larger by several orders of magnitude.
The blame-the-kids two-step -
In just the past few weeks, The Hill, The Observer, Salon, Paste, Fox News, Newsweek, New York Magazine, Bloomberg, and Vox have run articles referencing "Clinton's millennial problem" - and that's leaving out the endless parade of television and social media pundits saying the exact same thing. From, this, one might suspect that there is some kind of specific and known challenge that Clinton faces among millennials - and usually, the conclusion is that it is up to millennials to fix it.

But look closer, and you'll actually notice that the anti-millennial grievance has switched between two lines of criticism, each equally baseless in their own way.

Argument 1

Here, in argument (1), millennial support for Clinton is inadequate compared to other age groups. Specifically, olds like to point to the comparatively high youth support for third-party candidates in order to suggest that support for Clinton comparatively low. This of course is demonstrably incorrect on multiple grounds. Voters under 30 give Clinton her second highest margin of all age groups, and millennials (when we bracket generations correctly) give her a margin greater than every other age group combined. And while millennials may vote for third parties in high numbers, most of that attrition is coming from Trump's camp, not Clinton's. For instance, among supporters of Gary Johnson, every other age group has a significantly higher attrition rate from Clinton's camp than millennials do.

Thus, argument 1 fails completely: millennials are voting in higher numbers for Clinton than anyone else, and defecting from her far less. 

Argument 2

That's why, particularly in the past week or so, we've seen a slightly different complaint:

In argument 2, millennial support for Clinton is inadequate compared to their support for Obama. The premise here is that we should expect age groups to give Democrats a certain level of support based on the last election, and that their failure can be measured by how much that support declines.

It should probably be enough to say that pointing to the last election really just defers the question: instead of asking "are millennials underperforming," we're now asking "did millennials overperform last time?" But instead of leaning too hard on that, I'd like to make a distinct point:

18-30 year old voters

Clearly, if failure is simply measured by decline, then young African Americans are failing liberals more than anyone, followed by Asian Americans and then Latino/as. Any shift among support among young white voters, meanwhile, is so small that it's barely outside the margin of error (as is any current difference between young whites and older whites). So you cannot, that is to say, talk about the decline in youth support for Democrats without laying almost exclusive blame on young voters of color. Somehow, I doubt that Clinton's (largely white) media surrogates will have the audacity to rally behind that complaint.

What if Clinton does not actually have a millennial problem

Often when a grievance has to rely on multiple, shifting lines of critique, we can take this as a good indication that the arguments are just being backfilled to support the complaint. This is particularly true when the criticism turns out to be unusually baseless and flimsy; when this happens, it often makes sense to start looking for motivation. One egregiously incorrect data mistake is understandable - two are suspicious, and beg for an explanation.

Here, I think the explanation is pretty simple. Clinton's lead over Trump has tightened over the past month, to the point of occasionally disappearing altogether. This is making Clinton supporters nervous, and naturally they are looking for someone to blame. And because olds are significantly overrepresented on the editorial boards and in the opinion columns of elite media, this anxiety will predictably express itself as an inclination towards blaming young people. The persistence of this grievance says almost nothing about the actual numbers - past or present - but it says a lot about the ageism in our media.
Some intersectional analysis on the Trump and Clinton coalitions - 9/23/16
The demographic divides that define the 2016 election have been fairly clear for months, though some pundits, of course, persist in getting them wrong. As I tweeted out earlier tonight, the general state of affairs looks something like this:

If you're white, and/or if you are a young boomer, you're more likely to vote for Trump than Clinton. Otherwise, you're more likely to vote for Clinton than Trump. Within those two coalitions, of course, the strength of support also varies, but any demographic analysis of this election has to begin with race and age.

This, of course, is a significant simplification. A more intersectional approach wouldn't just look at how identity, as defined by a single dimension, determines one's politics - it would look at how the intersection of multiple identities do so. And when we do this, the picture gets more complicated. 

The boomer race split

Consider, for example, how the numbers look at the intersection of age and race (here, black vs. white):

A few significant trends stand out. First, of course, race is by far the most important factor predicting one's vote - this is implicit in the first chart. This tendency is so strong, in fact, that it masks a second trend that only becomes visible here: a split between black and white middle-aged voters. Support for Trump isn't simply coming from young boomers. It's specifically coming from young white boomers, and also from ageing white gen-xers. Among black Americans, meanwhile, we see a complete reversal of this trend: support for Clinton is the strongest among black Americans between 50 and 59.

This fact of black American life gets completely erased by the usual simplified way that we talk about political demographics. It is numerically correct that Trump's support comes from boomers, but only because the overwhelming majority of boomers happen to be white. Such statistics tell us just as much about racial proportions among age groups as they tell us about political preferences. It's only when we dig into the data, and do an intersectional analysis of the trends, that we get a more accurate picture of what's going on.

In what sense is Trump the candidate of white men?

Or consider, meanwhile, the common characterization of Trump as the candidate of white men. This is obviously true in the narrow sense that Trump has the highest margin of support among white men - but let's put this fact in context:

Once again, we find that the most important divide at work is race. Race is what divides preference for Trump from preference from Clinton, and race proves far more important than gender even within the two coalitions. (This is why, for instance, support for Clinton is stronger among black men than Hispanic women.)

This point is worth attending to when, for example, we have multiple white women in media characterizing Trump as the candidate of white men. As we see above, this is mostly an exercise in last-place-avoidance - but it does little to distinguish white women otherwise. Their shared whiteness with white men is what ends up mattering; being a woman knocks off a few points off of their overall preference for Trump, but it does nothing to bring them into a coalition with people of color. Here, the intersectional high ground white women can claim over white men is about as legitimate as 40-49 year old whites scolding 60-69 year old whites for liking Trump just a little more than they do.


One takeaway from all of this is that the overwhelming majority of our demographic analysis is painfully simplistic. What I've done here is more sophisticated than what we usually see, and even this was an extremely limited effort. A more ambitious analysis would look at how multiple demographic dimensions - race, age, gender, income, and so on - all combine in unique points of intersection with unique political tendencies. Doing this with two genders, four races, five age groups, and six income brackets would leave me with 240 data points to analyze, and I don't do that kind of work for free. It is, nevertheless, the bare minimum of what anything resembling an adequate intersectional demography would have to involve.

A more important point, however, is that once you start digging into the way various forms of identity intersect, the usual simplifications that popular demographic analysis deals in end up obscuring as much as they reveal. It's fine to talk about the role that boomers and white men play in supporting Trump, but not if this erases the role of middle-aged black voters in opposing Trump, or if it masks the complicity of white women.

This kind of simplification isn't the only problem with what passes for identitarian demographic analysis, but it's one of the most pernicious and egregious - and if we're going to do this, we should at least get it right.