Thursday, December 24, 2020

Republican Candidates Outperformed Trump in Large Cities

There is no doubt where Donald Trump lost the 2020 election - in the suburbs of swing states like Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.  Indeed, throughout the country, suburbanites were pulling the Biden lever while then crossing over to vote for Republicans down ballot.  

Trump's strength remained in rural America.  He not only increased his vote share of the country's rural counties, he also increased rural turnout.

Which brings me to an unexpected phenomenon of the 2020 election...Trump substantially improved his numbers in large cities compared to 2016.  For example, Trump's percent in New York City improved from 17.9% in 2016 to 22.6% in 2020.   That improvement reflected Trump's marginal improvement with non-white voters, particularly African-American and Latinos.

It is easy to make too much of the trend.  The fact is Republicans, and Trump, still do simply awful with most minority groups and, in particular, African-Americans.   Republicans are still nowhere near getting the numbers they need to win in black majority districts.  However, GOP improvement with Latinos might have helped Trump hold on to Texas and Florida, while improvement with African-Americans might have kept North Carolina, narrowly, in the Republican column.                  

Trump's better than expected numbers with minorities living in the inner city was of interest to me, especially given Trump's flirtation with white nationalism.  Then it suddenly occurred to me that the improvement in the inner cities might be a Republican phenomenon rather than a Trump phenomenon.    Maybe Trump was simply riding in the GOP boat when it was lifted by better Republican numbers in the inner city.

Let me rephrase.  In the suburbs, Joe Biden clearly ran well ahead of other Democratic candidates.  So, in large cities, did Trump run ahead of GOP candidates?  If Trump had a particular appeal to people, particularly minorities, living in large cities that other GOP candidates lacked, then Trump would run ahead of other Republican candidates in those cities.

Going into my research, I assumed that is exactly what I would find.  What I found though is quite the opposite.  Looking at election results in Philadelphia, Detroit, Phoenix, St. Louis and Indianapolis, Trump ran behind virtually every GOP candidate.  Trump was merely receiving the benefit of improved Republican popularity in the cities.  

That Republicans are doing better with minorities, many of whom live in the nation's largest cities, actually isn't a new phenomenon.
What changed in the racial and gender dynamics this cycle to produce these apparently extraordinary results? The truth is, absolutely nothing. These trends have been underway for the entirety of Trump’s public life.

In fact, Democrat losses with minority voters precede Trump’s candidacy. Over the course of Obama’s tenure in office, Democrats saw attrition with black and Hispanic voters in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Trump won in 2016 precisely because of this long-running erosion. Despite lackluster support among whites for the Republican candidate, Asian, Black and Hispanic voters continued to defect from the Democratic party – tipping key swing states in Trump’s direction, and handing him the election.
The Guardian article goes on to highlight where Republicans have been losing support - among white voters.  
Contrary to the prevailing narratives, the Republican party saw continued attrition with whites throughout Trump’s tenure in office. Almost all the losses Republicans saw in 2018, for instance, were due to defections by white voters. As compared to 2016, Republicans slightly improved their numbers with Blacks and Hispanic voters during the midterms. However, the margins among whites shifted 10 percentage points in the other direction, helping Trump’s opposition win the House.

It shouldn't be a surprise that Republicans might at some point start doing better with African-American and Latino voters.  Both minority groups tend to be more conservative, especially on social issues, than white voters.  And, frankly, the GOP was doing so badly with African-American voters that there was nowhere to go but up.

OOP's short takes:

  • Santa keeps a list of "naughty and nice" and rewards the children who have been "nice" with toys.  Donald Trump keeps a list of "naughty and nice" and rewards those who have been "naughty" with pardons.  Seriously, we need to find a way to reform the pardon power.   Contrary to what  some legal experts say,  I just don't buy the argument that there is a way to do that via statute.  It would have to be a constitutional change.  
  • There is no more perfect metaphor for the incompetence and poor deal-making abilities of Donald Trump than his sending out Treasurer Secretary Steve Mnuchin to negotiate a Covid-19 relief bill with the House and Senate, only to pull the rug out from under the deal his own administration negotiated when right-wing media expressed opposition to the bill.  

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