Blame Trump on the Rich, Part 3: Beachfront Trumpers

Writing

Introduction

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.

exitpolldata

Some have noticed that Trump won more uneducated voters, and called these people working class. This seems strange for two reasons

  1. Trump also won the educated white vote.
  2. 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 money for being kind enough to make big data accessible to everyone.

Lessons from the Coast: A Close Look at Oxnard, California

oxnard

Where the Trump Supporters are

Today we will be talking about beautiful Oxnard, California. Oxnard is on the coast of Southern California. Oxnard is about 77 percent white, and has actually increased in the percentage of white people since 2010. The BA rate fits the national average (3o percent) and the median income is 53,482.

Here is a map of how the City of Oxnard Voted

 

Oxnardmap.PNG

A sea of Clinton lovers surrounding those isolated Trump supporters

You’ll notice that Clinton won Oxnard. It is a sea of blue except for one tiny section that happens to be beach front property. Average home costs in Oxnard are 442,000, according to Zillow. Except for that little red patch where they are selling for 1.5 million and up. Sort of hard to call those Trump supporters, and he won in that strip by 60 percent of the vote, “working class” even if they are so profoundly white.

Tomorrow we’ll be comparing Rio Linda, known as the home of the largest KKK in California and Del Paso Heights, which is also a neighborhood in Sacramento with similar racial demographics. We will also take a look at who voted for Trump in Los Angeles. Then we will discuss how the turnout data in exit polls has changed for class overtime. Next week, I’ll be sharing a breakdown of votes in Wisconsin and some interesting correlations between the health data and voting.

 

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Blame Trump on the Rich Part 1: Gridley and the Two Sides of the Tracks

Writing

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.

exitpolldata

 

Some have noticed that Trump won more uneducated voters, and called these people working class. This seems strange for two reasons

  1. Trump also won the educated white vote.
  2. 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 send the LA Times money for being kind enough to make big data accessible to everyone.

We’ll be looking at few case studies that will demonstrate that the majority of poor whites continued to vote Democrat, as they have for decades, while the turnout and share of voters from the upper classes increased over time. Over several days, we will explore examples that demonstrate that it was, in fact, the rich who voted for Trump.

Today we will be talking about the town of Gridley. Gridley is a town in the NorthEast portion of the state, north of Sacramento. It has one of those cute founding stories that many of these former Gold Rush towns have. The population of Gridley is about 6,584. This makes it a small town that is mostly rural. Indeed, there is no real urban area in Gridley. As you would imagine, this town, like most of the towns that surround it, is white. In fact, it is 65 percent white. There are two sides to Gridley. Gridley and East Gridley. A set of railroad tracks divides the two. The median family income in Gridley is 29,957 and over 20 percent of the county is living in poverty. Houses in Gridley sell for $180,000, but right across the tracks in East Gridley they sell for 650,000.

Clinton won Gridley with 56% of the vote, but lost in East Gridley. In East Gridley, which is the “right” side of the tracks with the substantially higher housing costs, Trump won with 54% of the vote. You can also compare turnout numbers. The residents of the wrong side of the tracks only had 272 voters, whereas the haves in East Gridley had 506 votes. This conforms with the national data that demonstrates that the poor barely voted at all. 

The bottom line here is that in a town that is both rural and white there is a clear difference in voting patterns. The poorer portion voted for the Democrat, the haves in the East voted for the Republican. This is consistent with voting patterns in American presidential elections going back to 1984.

The working class white hypothesis, continues to be the only one being put forward in mainstream media. Given the paucity of data to support that and the abundant and growing data to support the fact that Trump was elected by the upper class, it seems like strange behavior for a society to claims to love empiricism so much. I’ll let you make up your own mind for now about why they seem to be clinging to this narrative so much. In the next several posts, we’ll be exploring exit poll income data changes over time, the representative cases of Sacramento, Grass Valley, Oxnard, Nevada City, and some interesting correlations with recent data about the health of poor whites.

How Mobilizing the Poor Might Have Changed the Election

Writing

The left is trying to figure out how we lost this election to Trump, and it is a worthy and important question. The most common reason that has been proposed is that working class whites voted for Trump because they are racist, but there are several problems with that argument, and it’s reflective of the way we struggle to talk about class in this country. Often when we want to talk about class it is kind of hard to find the raw data because we very rarely study class in this country, and there are lots of reasons for this, including representation in academia and funding issues. Which is to say, that it isn’t anyone’s fault that people are unaware of this but fortunately we have the data now to truly analyze this.

Determining Who Voted for Whom by Social Class

As in previous years, the rich were more likely to vote for the Republican and this is consistent with just about every election in modern history, the rich are more likely to vote Republican. Here are the turnout rates by class for 2012. You are free and welcome to look at previous years, but it won’t change. The Republicans have carried the rich vote for the last 30 years.

turnoutbyclass2012

Image 1: Turnout Rates by Class 2012

Now, here is the exit poll data by class for 2016. As you will see, the ONLY class groups Clinton carried were the poor.

 

exitpolldata

Image 2: Voting Rates by Class 2016

In 2016, the Democrats carried the working classes, and the Republicans carried the middle and upper classes.

Why Education is NOT a proxy for class

Now, many people have noted that more uneducated whites voted for Trump, and have designated these people “working class.” This is strange for two reasons

  1. The majority of educated whites also voted for Trump.
  2. No other country uses education levels as a proxy for class, and education is not determinative of class in this country.

Only 30 percent of the country has a BA and even attending an Ivy League school doesn’t have an impact on your class UNLESS you are poor. America is in a period of a historic lack of social mobility. In fact, the numbers are so low that economists have been confused by it for years. People who are rich remain rich and the poor remains poor, no amount of education is really successful at changing that. A possible exception is the TINY amount of folks like me that attended an Ivy League school, we do tend to rise up after getting over our handicaps in our 20s, but then we also have worse health outcomes than the people we left behind. And actually most of us don’t rise up at all.   For the poor, college has not been a source of upward mobility. So using education as a proxy for class only makes sense if you have absolutely no understanding of the definition of class AND you weren’t aware of the lack of social mobility. It is fine to admit that you are ignorant of these things, it is not ok to continue to push them after you become aware.

Democratic Turnout is a Better Explanation for What Happened

Now, as far as why the Democrats lost this year, let’s take a look at turnout numbers. Here are the numbers for 2012, when Obama won the Rust Belt

turnoutratesbyyear

Image 3: Turnout Rates by Year

As you can see, turnout in 2012 was 57.5 percent. Here are the numbers for 2016.

turnoutrates2016

Image 4: Turnout rates for 2016

As you can see, turnout in 2012 was 55%, which is more than 2 percentage points lower than in 2012. That 2 percent is enough to make up the difference of what Clinton lost, without converting any Stein supporters at all. In fact, the Democratic party was short 6 million votes in total from 2012. Many of those votes went to third parties, and the poor were the most likely group to vote third party, but she didn’t need all 6 million to throw her over the edge because she lost by a small amount of votes in key states. In 2016, there was a marked decrease in turnout.

Why Turnout was Lower

So now the question is, why didn’t people vote and who was most unlikely to vote. This data has turnout rates by class.

actualturnoutratesbyclass

Image 5: Turnout Rates by Class

As you can see from the data, turnout rates are lower for the poor than they are for other groups. This has pretty much always been true and though I could list the reasons, I’ll let the data speak for itself. Here are the reasons people gave for not voting.

turnoutbyclass

Image 6: Reasons people didn’t vote

The top three reasons are reasons that disproportionately affect the poor. Much of the poor don’t vote for logistical reasons, like their work schedule or their health. Some don’t vote because they either don’t know how or have given up on voting meaning anything. Voter suppression is much more likely to happen to poor people, so many have faced barriers and have subsequently just given up.  We know voter suppression was a major issue this year. In fact, voter suppression was also an issue during the primaries, so those people had been recently disenfranchised.

Note that this is only for REGISTERED VOTERS, most of the poor isn’t even registered at all. It’s been noted that Trump won areas with poor health, and as you can see, poor health was a substantial barrier to the poor voting. Poor whites also have a declining mortality, which goes against the trends for other groups.

In fact, poor whites have lost almost ten years of their life in the last 20. The verdict is still out on all the causes, but the bottom line is that many of these people simply didn’t vote for legitimate reasons.

Enthusiasm Gap for Clinton

Hillary also experienced an enthusiasm gap in 2016. Here is the percentage of registered voters who intended to actually vote in 2016 vs. 2012, and as we can see from image 6, the fourth most common reason for not voting was a distaste for the candidates.

enthusiamgapbetweenregisteredvoters

Image 7: Registered voters intention to vote 2012 v. 2016

That’s a pretty significant decline and considering that Sanders carried many of the areas Hilary lost in the primary, it suggests that the people might have turned out for a candidate they believed in. Which is to say that the same people that elites have been blaming and calling racists were more likely to turn out for a Socialist from a working class background.

Conclusions and Some Preliminary Thoughts

Taken all together, it seems pretty clear that the Democrats lost because they failed to mobilize the poor to vote. A slightly higher turnout might have saved us, and the reasons people had for not voting were preventable barriers that the elites could have worked and mobilized around but they didn’t.

In fact, working class whites, seem to have voted mostly like other minority groups. This despite the fact that the left made no efforts to reach them and have been mocking them for years. This demonstrates that there is a strong possibility for the working class whites to associate themselves with the struggle of the rest of the poor. Many of them have an identity based on their class background and have been working actively against racism. They live near more minorities, interracially marry more often, and can identify with the rest of the poor. This means there is amazing potential to turn these people into active and empowered members of the left.

I get why the folks on the right keep pushing this narrative. The only time the elites have been in danger of revolt in this country was during the beginning of this nation when all of the working classes got together and transcended race during Shay’s Rebellion. It scared them so much that they rewrote many laws to ensure that poor whites, first peoples and free and enslaved blacks didn’t work together. This is where anti-miscegenation laws come from. They want to continue to push this narrative to divide and conquer and ensure that we never work together or never try to really change the economic structure of society. It’s important to remember that the segregationists worst fear was that if we all went to school together, we would fall in love with each other. Rebellion in this country, looks a lot like love.

It only works to our advantage to fold poor whites into our movement and they are primed for that co-option. We can do it AND still talk about race without taking away anything from any other group. There is a huge tradition among activists in the United States who have attempted to do just that. In fact, it was part of Martin Luther King’s last campaign before he died. Howard Zinn was talking about this during the 60s, and in what eventually became his book, A People’s History of the United States. If you consider yourself progressive or revolutionary, you’ve been pushing this narrative because you are ignorant and simply didn’t know, which is absolutely fine! We all have to learn. Our school systems, media, and social segregation make it hard to uncover this information.

But if you are really want to scare the elites, you’ll break up this narrative as quickly as you can and start mobilizing the working classes.

“Passing” and other such nonsense

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I keep asking people to allow for complexities, one because I’m a historian and I like to be accurate, but two because it allows us to see absurdities in the system.

Currently, it in vogue to argue that poor white people are not oppressed or are less oppressed and therefore less important. There are two basic strands to this argument and one is more legitimate than the other. The more legitimate one begins with the idea that they don’t endure systematic oppression but the problem with that argument is that they do. Poverty is a systematic form of oppression. But maybe, it’s different or not as bad because it’s not racial oppression. This argument stems from a legitimate frustration from the people who try to use poor whites as a distraction from talking about race. Which of course part of why racism exists, because early (and forever) in our country’s history, poor blacks, poor whites and the native population lived together, which is one of the reasons most poor white people have native blood in them so they had to find a way from keeping all of the poor from revolting and working together. Which they did, several times throughout our history. But I understand that frustration because it’s really frustrating that people try to derail discussions around race by co-opting poor whites, but I don’t think it’s the most effective means to combat that problem.

The less legitimate argument is the idea that poor whites can’t be oppressed because it’s not racial oppression. Of course, it’s not racial oppression, though whites all experience the system we call racism because everyone does. But it doesn’t have to be racial oppression because there can be lots of different forms of oppression that overlap, and we should know this by now but we are still stuck in the sixties on our college campuses where everyone wants you to declare your allegiances, which is why even though I helped plan and orchestrate and demand for rallies from our school for Black History Month, I suddenly got to college and had people demanding to know why I had showed up to speak at rallies against racial oppression.

We all operate under multiple identities and sometimes we choose to operate more strongly with one than the other. For example, I feel most strongly identified with my class, then my gender, then my education background, then my race, then my disabilities. But that switches, if I am say, at the doctors or talking about race or in a room full of Stanford graduates for work functions.Vincent, who appears to most people from Stanford as Hispanic actually identifies (usually) in this order: class, disability, race, educational background, gender. That order changes when he’s applying for jobs, or at the doctor or hanging out with me when I’m talking about sexism. And he usually doesn’t identify as Hispanic at all, because he considers himself to be biracial and sometimes he’s treated like he’s white and he identifies as white.

Which brings us to this idea of passing. Passing, is being able to identify as the identity with power, which allows you access to more resources and power. Vincent sometimes passes as white, but not every Hispanic person could do that because not every Hispanic person has the amount white blood or has been here as long or speaks English as their first language or has the education he has. People have passed racially throughout our history, some lighter skinned black people could pass even during slavery (which is why the south had the one drop rule). Our country is large and diverse and the state has a spectrum of means to control people but it’s been very difficult for our state to stop the creation of multiracial people completely. Rape happened and also people fell in love. There is a spectrum of whether or not people can do this and colorism is a real byproduct of racism. The same is true for gender, although that one is arguably harder, but women, even emperors have passed as men throughout history. And this is all not accounting for the fact that white has been a moving target and keeps being redefined. Five generations ago (which in my family is within living memory) my family wasn’t white, which is why our last name was Americanized. And we are German!

What about class? Class is the easier one right? You can pass, the differences are changeable. Well, as a poor white person it is easier for me to pass as rich and white than it would be for a poor black person but even here there is a spectrum. And rich black people in this country are still rich, so they experience one system but not the other. It’s insulting for them to claim the forms of oppression that poor black people experience and in my experience poor black people don’t appreciate that at all, which is why they often consider me to be “more black” than the rich black kids I went to college with. Ironically, I seemed to have the hardest time passing as “not poor” out of anyone I know and it’s not just because I didn’t try very hard. I didn’t know how to try. The visible class markers, my teeth, my curviness, my glasses, my clothes, my speech, my height, my attitude and demeanor were all dead giveaways. I was visibly malnourished when I got to college. I had asthma that was horrifically bad (that magically starting clearing up when I live in wealthier neighborhoods, I wonder how that happened, could it be that we place pollutants next to poor neighborhoods). I had whopping cough as a child, my doctors were like, “your chart reads like you are from a third world country.” In one spectacular moment that was repeated over and over again, I was speaking to a Thai student and a Hispanic student who both grew up rich and they started making fun of my accent. Why did I have a harder time passing then some of the other poor people I know? Well, I went to a bad high school and had never left my neighborhood so I didn’t learn how to codeswitch like my friends who went to good suburban high schools or private school. People could tell when I opened my mouth and the shock to me was so glaring that I opted not to even try to pass. I’m also a terrible liar. But even my poor white friends who went to good suburban high schools or private schools can’t pass all the time because there are more subtle indicators. I can tell almost immediately whether or not someone is working class. The person that I know who passes most successfully, I knew the second I met him. How? He stood up when I walked into the room, something that working class men are trained to do in the company of respectable women. Bill Clinton, could not pass, when I got to college my rich classmates were calling him “trailer trash” and the man was President among other impressive things. It is much harder than you realize to try to pretend to be something you weren’t exposed to for the first 18 years of your life. So I couldn’t just go to college and blend in and the poor kids who argued I could couldn’t either.

But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even matter. Why? Because we should all be fighting oppression everywhere. I speak about class most often because that’s my speciality, it’s the area I am most suited to be vocal for, but I also talk about race and gender and other forms of oppression because I see us as all in this together. I support people working against racial oppression by promoting their voice, arguing against racists and educating other white people. My oppression doesn’t negate your oppression and we have to stop allowing ourselves to be pitted against each other. But I do believe in priorities and I will tell you that I’ll happily take being being made fun of because of my accent over hunger and violence any day of the week, so it’s important that we are fighting just as hard to combat hunger and poverty as we do to fighting to change the language. Some of that is going to take teasing apart the language and discussing the ways that the system and systems treat different people so we can dismantle the system by proving it’s stupidity. And it is stupid, so incredibly ridiculous that if it weren’t in my own country in this time we’d point at it and talk about how silly our ancestors were in the same way that we point at something like foot binding or corsets and talk about how grateful we are to not be in that time. And we should start treating it like it is absurd and stupid because that takes the power away, and we can do all of this while doing all of the other things. We can fight against all of these systems, talk about language, feed the poor and laugh at the stupidity of it all, at the same time but only if we stop shouting at each other and work together.

So, I’m pleading, once again to help each other. And I know that’s not fashionable but I don’t care because I’m not interested in being cool in the eyes of who ever is at top of the activism chain, I’m interested in freeing people. Let’s spend our time and energy doing that.