In a piece so brilliant it could only be published on Slate, Jamie Bouie writes, “The Path To The Presidency Could Be Harder For White Democrats In 2020.” Bouie is write but for the wrong reasons. Bouie chalks it up to Trump’s racism and the xenophobic tendencies Trump has brought out in white Americans. Somebody forgot to tell Bouie the same percentage of white Americans voted for Trump as did Mitt Romney. The difference is Trump won.
The truth is obviously far off from what the liberal intelligentsia believes. But, before we get to that, let’s review Bouie’s main points in order. The first is Trump was the first Republican since Nixon to campaign on racial resentment. Contrary to Romney, this is the big difference between Trump and Romney’s wins among whites. Secondly, because Trump campaigned on resentment based issues these became part of voters decision making criteria and thus are now correlated with partisan views. Apparently you just spontaneously develop negative views of minorities. Who knew?
Thirdly, because few Republicans (you know) like blacks but a number of Midwestern Democrats do not it is hard to see how Clinton could have avoided this dynamic. Amusingly, this article is written after Democrats swept the states were all these Midwestern Democrats are. The excuses machine is alive and well. Finally, Bouie ends with how a white candidate might struggle to appeal to a large share of Democratic minority voters. On this he is finally right. But, by putting the onus on Trump he ignores his party’s history with race and its continued exorcism of white males.
Bouie’s argument would hold water if this were a statewide election in say Oregon or WA State. But, it’s obviously not. In a Presidential election, where numerous state primaries will decide the party’s candidate, racial identities will significantly matter. Early polls from majority-white Iowa are not surprisingly registering old white-guy Joe Biden leading. But with a likely strong candidacy from a Corey Booker or Kamala Harris in the works the odds of a white, male candidate making it out of the primary drop surprisingly.
The reasoning should not be surprising. Since blacks increasing became Democratic, culminating with FDR’s cementing of their support, any dissenting views of black support for Democrats has been crushed. It is not a joke when people note how black Democrats gang up on conservative blacks. Blacks largely vote monolithically for a Democrat not just in general elections but in primaries as well. Most recently, it is why Hillary Clinton won the 2016 primary despite Bernie Sander’s best efforts to appeal to this voting bloc.
One of the consequences of the Democratic Party increasingly shedding white voters is black voters (who have much higher participation rates than Hispanics or even Asians) have an increased impact among the primary electorate. Among a broad swathe of states in the Deep South to the Midwest to even the majority white Northeast, these voters decide the fate of the Democratic Presidential nominating process.
Bouie can deny this simple fact all he wants but it is there. Black Democrats have their own racial identity and largely vote as a block. This makes being the block’s candidate hugely important. One can look down the list of black candidates like Jesse Jackson who saw their support almost solely come from Black voters. Trump’s campaign might have exacerbated this but it certainly did not create it.
The odds of a white Democratic male facing Trump were slim even after 2016. Clinton’s campaign, which played so much on her being a women, solidified gender preferences as well. It is what makes Kamala Harris such a strong candidate. Not only is she black but she is also a women. So she could conceivably bring in college educated female voters along with the black vote.
Additionally, if Trump really had solidified the voting tendencies of white voters there would not be clear voting divisions among whites along class and geographic locale. Obviously, there are. The one thing Trump did solidify was blue-collar whites voting more like a racial block, though it still pales to black voting patterns.
The odds a Democrat wins the White House in 2020 are no worse than 50/50 if suburban voting patterns in 2018 hold. But the odds a white, male Democrat is the one facing off against Trump are close to nil in today’s Democratic Party. Along with the racial component there is also a policy component. Take for example Joe Biden.
Biden would be an appealing candidate to unite all wings of the Democratic party: upscale, white suburbanites, black Democrats, college educated women and even some blue-collar whites. But, among a racially and gender based primary electorate his odds of making it to the general are slim. Not only is his gender and race an issue, but he would pummeled on past policies he has supported including supporting segregated busing in Baltimore and getting Clarence Thomas on the court. Not even a Beto O’Rourke would have this kind of baggage.
While many white, male Democrats are floating runs the odds are a majority will not. They remain loyal Democrats but even they know they do not have the right body parts to win in the Democratic Party of today. Funny, Bouie ignores this truism.