A well educated and successful friend raised an interesting question among a group of my friends last night. Essentially he asked how a political novice, and an accused womanizer, become our president. Trump's character, and his ability to govern, are so far from our expectations of a president that it is a difficult question to answer. Perhaps the most popular explanation for his electoral success is that he understood the needs of working class Americans and their resentment of the elite class better than his Republican opponents in the GOP primary, and better than Hillary Clinton in the general election. The Republican elite and the Democratic elite have been tone deaf. Clinton preached social justice to an electorate that wanted solutions to their economic problems.
This article reaches a different conclusion. It will be difficult for many Americans to accept. It argues that Trump won the election by appealing to white racism. Trump's campaign began well before the 2016 election. He started out early by declaring that Obama was not a legitimate president because he was not born in the US. The majority of Republicans in 2016 continued to believe that Obama was not a legitimate president even after Obama released his birth certificate. The Republican leader of the Senate declared that his primary objective was to make sure that Obama would be a one term president. Its normal for leaders of one party to oppose the leader of the opposing political party. Its not normal to have the level of partisanship directed towards Obama and his policies. For example, his hated healthcare plan, which Republican's called Obamacare, was fine when the Republican Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, passed a similar plan in his state. Romney believed that providing a solution for healthcare in Massachusetts would pave the way for him to pursue the presidency. Instead, he had to defend himself against the easy comparisons between his plan and Obamacare. In a sense, he lost access to one of the most potent Republican political weapons.
The data from the 2016 election illustrate the dominance of race in the election:
* Clinton expected that she would do well with women against a womanizing Trump. Trump won a 9% margin of white women over Clinton. However, his margin among white men was 31%. Being a woman candidate was somewhat helpful to Clinton but not enough to overcome the margin provided by white males.
* Clinton did better with college educated white voters. Trump had a 3% margin among college educated whites. Non college educated whites gave Trump a 37% margin. Education level reduces the racism affect. Perhaps that is why higher education is so often attacked by Republicans.
* Trump's margin among white voters aged 18-29 was only 4%. His margin among older white
Americans was in double digits.
* If only white votes were counted in the 2016 election, Trump's electoral vote margin over Clinton would have been 387 versus 81. 68 votes would have gone to another candidate or to other.
* White voters earning less than $50,000 gave Trump a 20% margin. However, he had a 28% margin from white voters earning between $50K and $100K. His margin was only 14% from voters earning greater than $100K. (The higher earning group is also a higher educated group) However, its hard to argue that Trump's victory cam be explained by his appeal to impoverished white votes.
Most of us do not want to accept the role of race in the election. Democrats prefer to differentiate voters by class. They would like to believe that they could win future elections by winning the votes of low income white voters as they had done in the past. Its much harder to accept the idea that race is more important factor than economic class. Trump's victory seems to prove otherwise. Democratic appeals to social justice fell on deaf ears for many Americans. Social justice means giving government hand outs to minorities for many Americans.