The Establishment has forcefully pushed the explanation that Clinton lost due the fact that “working class whites” voted for Trump because they are racist. I was surprised to hear this theory, because as a poor white person, I know that the rich always vote for Republicans and the poor have very consistently voted for Democrats. This holds in exit poll data back into 1984 (we’ll talk about the income data and exit polls in general in a separate post, but that data can be found here). This year, Clinton only won those making 50,000 a year, while losing the other income groups.
Some have noticed that Trump won more uneducated voters, and called these people working class. This seems strange for two reasons
- Trump also won the educated white vote.
- Only 30 percent of the country has a BA and BA’s are no guarantee of social status in a country where there is limited social mobility
More detailed contextual information is here. After seeing these arguments, it was suggested that Clinton won the cities, where the poor are assumed to be nonwhite (there are in fact, poor whites in urban areas, I used to be one), while Trump won rural, white voters living in poverty. This theory will be deconstructed by looking at the precinct by precinct data. That data, which goes beyond exit polls to actual vote totals, can be found using this link. Please subscribe to the LA Times for being kind enough to make big data accessible to everyone.
I remember my first week of Stanford like it was yesterday. I wish I could say they were positive memories but they certainly were instructive. During one of those getting to know you exercises, we talked about our backgrounds. I hadn’t been around rich people long enough to be self conscious yet, so I was honest about my experience around the other white kids who lived in very white bubbles.
“Well, I guess I can’t say I lived in a bubble. I’m proud to say I’m from Sacramento, which is one of the most diverse areas of the country! It’s great, I’ve always had diverse friends. I feel so lucky.”
After I wrapped up a characteristically eager defense of my ‘hood another girl spoke.
She decided to share with the group that she “had grown up in a different part of Sacramento than Heather and it was all white.” She wanted to make sure they didn’t make the mistake of associating us together and I never spoke to her again.
And I am so damn proud of my hood, y’all. I’m straight up North Highlands. You know how I know North Highlands is legit as fuck? Because when I used to tell my kids in East Palo Alto that I grew up in North Highlands, their response was “damn Ms. C is hella legit” and “that explains some things.” Being that I’m a poor white person from the hood, I was very curious to see if North Highlands had lived up to the stereotype that working class whites had voted for Trump. So I matched the voting numbers, and unsurprisingly to me, Clinton had won my hood.
I wanted to compare this to the red area of the map next to it in Rio Linda, but then I started looking at demographics and it turns out that I, yoga pants wearing, Stanford educated and green eyed, had actually grown up in a predominantly black neighborhood. And the truly funny part is I tried then to do the same thing in the projects I grew up in in Suisun, and it turns out that was also mostly black. Now, I had suspected this for years but the left kept calling me a liar or delusional every time I tried to explain why I talk and dance the way I do. Fortunately we can now close the book on that debate, we now know from data (since y’all don’t trust my lived experience), that poor whites live in black neighborhoods and that I’m apparently the only person accurately seeing things.
But after this fun little journey of self discovery, I still wanted to understand that little red part of the map better. I knew it well, it’s called Rio Linda. Rio Linda is the home of the largest KKK population in California. Rio Linda also has a reputation for being incredibly white trash. Now, I couldn’t compare North Highlands to Rio Linda because that could be explained by the minority numbers in North Highlands. So instead, I had to find a predominantly white community that went for Clinton. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look that far, because it turns out that the neighborhood my Black/Indonesian/Mexican/White sister in law is from is predominantly white. We call it Foothill Farms.
Rio Linda had the good high school in the district, while Highlands (the one I went to) and Foothill often competed for most terrifying acts of violence and fewest numbers of books.
Rio Linda is about 77% white. Foothill Farms is 65% white, which you can compare to my neighborhood, which is just over the overpass and tracks from Foothill Farms and is only 20% white. North Highlands, which is where I grew up, has a poverty rate of 38.4 percent, which compares to the state average of 22% (California has the highest poverty rate in the country). Rio Linda is actually below the state average at 20 percent. Foothill Farms has a poverty rate of 25 percent. The Median Income in Foothill Farms is 38,000, while in Rio Linda the median income is 45,000.
So how did the poorer, but also white neighborhood with the shittier school do? Well, they voted for Clinton with 76 percent of the vote. Granted, the turnout was appalling, but the fact is that when people voted they voted for Clinton. Rio Linda has the reputation for being “working class” because it is more “rural” than North Highlands and Foothill Farms, but Rio Linda IS BETTER OFF relatively to the communities that surround it. Rural doesn’t mean poor, and it turns out that middle class people seemed to be concerned enough about their standing that they voted for a candidate who has promised to oppress their neighbors. Considering that the only time in my childhood that I remember seeing state sanctioned racism (instead of classism) directed at my friends was the one day I spent on the Rio Linda high school campus for summer school, I’ll let you draw some conclusions.
But I will leave you with this, it’s hard to feel racial resentment when
- You need your neighbors to survive and your neighbors look differently than you
- You don’t have anything to lose to begin with
- Your poverty and experience with your community helps you to understand that if you spend one more minute watching people being racist to people you love, you will burn the whole thing to the ground and therefore the way to stay out of jail is to just wait to take Driver’s Ed as an additional class so you can’t commit arson.
I was tryin’ to get out of there, not end up in lock up, but boy did they almost have me.
Tomorrow we will be talking about who voted for Trump in Los Angeles. We will talk about changes in exit polls,Wisconsin, and the curious health related correlations next week.
What do you know about da Highlands? For a taste of what I call home, check out this theme song.