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“A Legacy Of The Old Democratic Pre-Civil Rights South”: Reagan Democrats Of Kentucky, Oklahoma And West Virginia

To no one’s surprise, Bernie Sanders won the Democratic presidential primary in West Virginia yesterday and has so far picked up 16 delegates to Clinton’s 11. While that is not enough to change the trajectory of the race, it produced some interesting information.

As exit polls were released, there was some surprise in a couple of categories. Thirty-five percent of voters in the Democratic primary plan to vote for Donald Trump in the general election. Of those, 63% voted for Sanders. Similarly, a plurality of voters (41%) want the next president to be less liberal than Obama. Of those, 51% voted for Sanders.

Initially pundits attempted to ascribe these results to Clinton’s remarks in March about how she’d “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” But given that Sanders’ position on coal is the same as Clinton’s, that doesn’t seem plausible. Rye Spaeth provided some information that is probably more pertinent.

“No state has lower approval ratings for the president than West Virginia,” Philip Bump pointed out in February. And unlike embattled Democrats in West Virginia, Clinton has embraced Obama’s legacy and diverse coalition.

It is also worth noting that the population of West Virginia is 93% non-Hispanic white.

Nate Cohn provides some data suggesting that Reagan Democrats (a term that has been dismissed by a lot of people, including me) are actually a large part of the electorate in states like West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky (which holds its primary next Tuesday).

Coal County, Okla., is one of the most extreme examples. There, 80 percent of voters are registered Democrats, yet President Obama won just 27 percent of the vote in 2012. Mrs. Clinton has performed very poorly where the share of voters who are registered Democrats is much greater than the share of voters who supported Mr. Obama…

These conservative Democrats are a legacy of the old Democratic strength among white voters in the South, where many white conservatives nonetheless remain registered as Democrats.

Cohn provided this map to demonstrate.

The conservative registered Democrats helping Sanders have helped him elsewhere, especially Oklahoma pic.twitter.com/MpFfilnwHo

— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) May 11, 2016

These voters have tended to remain registered as Democrats and support local candidates like Sen. Joe Manchin in West Virginia. But they mostly resemble white Democrats of the pre-Civil Rights South. When it comes to presidential elections, they ensure that their states are firmly red. That’s a pretty classic definition of the term Reagan Democrat.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 11, 2016

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Big Coal, Reagan Democrats | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Reagan Democrats Are Gone”: Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Need White Men

The New York Times today has an article of a kind we’ve seen before and will likely see many times again before this election is over, warning that Hillary Clinton has a serious problem with white men, a problem that could threaten her ability to win a general election:

White men narrowly backed Hillary Clinton in her 2008 race for president, but they are resisting her candidacy this time around in major battleground states, rattling some Democrats about her general-election strategy.

While Mrs. Clinton swept the five major primaries on Tuesday, she lost white men in all of them, and by double-digit margins in Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio, exit polls showed — a sharp turnabout from 2008, when she won double-digit victories among white male voters in all three states…

The fading of white men as a Democratic bloc is hardly new: The last nominee to carry them was Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and many blue-collar “Reagan Democrats” now steadily vote Republican. But Democrats have won about 35 to 40 percent of white men in nearly every presidential election since 1988. And some Democratic leaders say the party needs white male voters to win the presidency, raise large sums of money and, like it or not, maintain credibility as a broad-based national coalition.

I’m not sure who the “Democratic leaders” are who think that, because the only one the article quotes is Bill Richardson, who’s been out of politics for a few years and frankly was never considered a strategic genius to begin with. But here’s the truth: Hillary Clinton doesn’t need white men.

Let’s be more specific. Clinton will have the support of tens of millions of white men. But she doesn’t need to do any better among them than any Democrat has, and even if she does worse, she’ll probably be completely fine.

That’s because whites are declining as a proportion of the electorate as the country grows more diverse with each passing year. In 1992, just 24 years ago, whites made up 87 percent of the voters, according to exit polls. By 2012 the figure had declined to 72 percent. Since women vote at slightly higher rates than men, white men made up around 35 percent of the voters.

Those numbers will be lower this year, which means that even if nothing changes in how non-whites vote, Republicans will need to keep increasing their margins among whites to even stay where they are overall — in other words, to keep losing by the same amount.

By way of illustration, in 1988, George H.W. Bush won 60 percent of white voters on his way to beating Michael Dukakis by seven points. In 2012, Mitt Romney did just as well among whites, winning 59 percent of their votes. But he lost to Barack Obama by four points. The electorate is now even less white than it was four years ago, which means that Donald Trump (or whoever the GOP nominee is) will have to do not just better among whites than Romney did in order to win, but much better.

Exactly how much better is difficult to say because we don’t know exactly what turnout will look like among different groups (David Bernstein recently estimated that Trump would have to get at least 70 percent of the white male vote, compared to Mitt Romney’s 62 percent). But as turnout increases among groups other than white men, the need to run up the score among white men gets higher and higher. And for certain groups — particularly Latinos and women of all races — Donald Trump provides an extraordinary incentive to get out and vote. Not only that, as I argued yesterday, women are likely to vote in even stronger numbers for Clinton.

It’s true that Clinton has done worse among white male voters in this year’s primaries than she did in 2008. But we should be extremely wary of taking voting results in primaries and extrapolating them out to the general election. For starters, the overwhelming majority of people who vote in primaries will vote for their party’s nominee in November, whether they supported him/her in the primary or not. Furthermore, the general electorate is a completely different group of people than the primary electorate, and they’ll be presented with a different choice.

The Times article talks to some white men who don’t like Clinton, and it’s always worthwhile to hear those individual voices in order to understand why certain people vote the way they do. But when you pull back to the electorate as a whole, you realize that there just aren’t enough votes among white men for Republicans to mine. The reason is simple: they’ve already got nearly all they’re going to get. While some people entertain the fantasy that there are huge numbers of “Reagan Democrats” just waiting to cross over, the Reagan Democrats are gone. They all either died (it was 36 years ago that they were identified, remember) or just became Republicans. The GOP already has them, and it isn’t enough.

Finally, the idea that the Democrats can’t “maintain credibility as a broad-based national coalition” unless they get more votes from white men is somewhere between absurd and insane. We have two main parties in this country. One of them reflects America’s diversity, getting its votes from a combination of whites, blacks, Latinos, Asian-Americans, and people of other ethnicities. Its nominee got 55 percent of his votes in 2012 from whites — smaller than their proportion of the population as a whole, but still a majority of those who voted for him.

The other party is almost entirely white; its nominee got 90 percent of his votes from whites in 2012. And we’re supposed to believe that if that party gets even more white, then it will be the one that’s “broad-based”?

Obviously, every candidate would like to get strong support from every demographic group. But if there’s one group Hillary Clinton can afford not to worry too much about, it’s white men. Most of them are going to vote against her anyway, and even if they do, she still would have a decent chance of winning the election.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, March 18, 2016

March 21, 2016 Posted by | General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, Reagan Democrats, White Men | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From Reagan Democrat To Trump Republican”: It Is Way Beyond Time To Stop Calling These Voters “Reagan Democrats”

Heather Digby Parton took a look at some data from Alan I. Abramowitz, Ronald Rapoport, and Walter Stone about Trump supporters and reached a conclusion that has seemed obvious for a while now. Parton zeros in on the fact that these voters display an embrace of nativism, authoritarianism and economic populism. She adds nationalistic militarism to the list.

I guess I don’t really understand why this is such a mystery. This the profile of Republicans who used to be called Reagan Democrats. They’ve been part of the GOP coalition or more than 30 years. And their views have always been the same. Nativism/racism, authoritarian/lawandorder, nationalist/militarist, economic populists. These are blue collar white people who used to vote for Democrats until Democrats became the party of civil rights, civil liberties and anti-war protests. In other words, the party of black and brown people, gays, and feminists, globalists and critics of authoritarian police agencies and military adventurism.

After that happened Democrats remained more responsive to economic populism although they foolishly muddied their message so that their differences with the GOP were obscured. But it wouldn’t have mattered, not really. People who hold that set of beliefs are Republicans because they do not want to be in multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalition where “liberal peaceniks” and uppity feminists are equal partners. The GOP’s fundamental nativism and racism and “patriotic” militarism are the reasons they prefer the Republicans and they are the reasons they prefer Donald Trump. They love him so much because they’ve finally found someone who boldly expresses all those beliefs.

While Ronald Reagan made a direct appeal to these voters via finely-tuned dog whistles, the Republicans began wooing them to their party after passage of the civil rights laws of the 1960’s via their Southern Strategy. Because of that focus, it is tempting to assume that these voters all reside in the South. But as we’ve watched the rise of Donald Trump, it is obvious that they are also to be found in so-called “Rust Belt” states as well as the Mountain West.

Ever since the inception of the Southern Strategy, Democrats have been attempting to determine how they can entice these voters to return to their party. To the extent that their passions are ignited by Trump’s nativist, racist, sexist, militaristic appeal, it is safe to assume they aren’t coming back. That should have been clear from the fact that they were willing to remain Republican despite the fact that the GOP has never supported policies that address their economic populism. But if there were ever any doubts, it is now obvious what is driving their political leanings…it is nothing more than an appeal to tribalism.

It is way beyond time to stop calling these voters “Reagan Democrats.” To the extent that they now support Donald Trump, they make up what we often refer to as the “base” of the Republican Party – a base that has been catered to for so long that it is now threatening to take control away from people who still pine for the days when they were the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 14, 2016

March 16, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Reagan Democrats | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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