The stunning win by Donald Trump over the heir apparent, Hillary Clinton, still stings in some quarters. What's worse, Democrats are doing their usual kabuki theater display of blaming everybody and everything other than their candidate for Trump's win.
Depending on what day you talk to them, Hillary lost because of the Russians, racism, James Comey, the media, or misogyny. Sometimes they combine factors. What they never do is acknowledge Hillary was a terrible candidate, and her loss was her own fault.
She never gave people a direct reason to vote for her. She ignored voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan (Trump's big lead in Ohio should have served as a warning to her campaign) and that wound up costing her.
Ta-Nehisi Coates latest piece in The Atlantic returns to the racism excuse, suggesting the only reason Trump won is that he's white, relying on white voters to put him over the top. He cites some exit polling data to make his case:
Trump's dominance among whites across class lines is of a piece with his larger dominance across nearly every white demographic. Trump won white women (+9) and white men (+31). He won white people with college degrees (+3) and white people without them (+37). He won whites ages 18–29 (+4), 30–44 (+17), 45–64 (+28), and 65 and older (+19).
He goes on:
Trump's share of the white vote was similar to Mitt Romney's in 2012. But unlike Romney, Trump secured this support by running against his party's leadership, against accepted campaign orthodoxy, and against all notions of decency.
The conclusion doesn't make much sense. It doesn't follow that any of what Coates suggests would make whites any less willing to vote for Trump. Also, it's a tad dishonest for him to say the white vote was similar to Romney in 2012. It was nearly identical to Romney.
Coates said Trump won white women (+9). Romney won white women (+14). Trump won white men (+31). Romney won white men (+27).
Coates also leaves out another important piece of information: Trump also did better with minority voters than Romney did. Granted, it wasn't a major shift, but it helped. Trump didn't necessarily improve upon the numbers of Romney, but he was aided by Hillary Clinton doing worse among those groups. In 2012, Obama beat Romney among African-American voters 86 points. Hillary won them only by 81 points. Obama won Latinos in 2012 by 44 points, but Hillary won them by only 38 points.
These gaps run counter to the notion that Trump only won because of some specific racial animus. It gives credence to the argument that Hillary could not hold together the Obama coalition, as many believed she couldn't. Larry Sabato, an expert in elections, said anywhere from 6.7-9.2 million people who voted for Obama in 2012, voted for Trump in 2016. The figures are not exact, and it has to be reconciled with people who voted for Romney in 2012 and voted for Hillary in 2016. But the net is somewhere in the 3.5 to 6 million range. Sabato writes:
...these surveys offer additional evidence about a critical part of the 2016 equation: the millions of voters who switched from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. Given the extremely close margins in some states, particularly the Rust Belt trio of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, these voters played a crucial role in handing over the White House to the GOP.
The question to explore is, "Where did the votes come from?"
The answer lies, not surprisingly, in education levels, not race. That would partially explain Trump's victories in rust-belt, blue collar states just as Sabato concludes. Unlike race where the difference between 2012 and 2016 was negligible, the shift in votes among those without college degrees is striking.
In 2012, among those with only a high school education or less, Obama beat Romney by (+3). In 2016, Trump won those voters by (+5). Obama beat Romney against those with "some college" by a sliver, (+1). Trump beat Hillary with those voters by (+8). Those voters combined make up 50 percent of the electorate. That could easily explain the votes Trump made up in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
Making Trump's victory about race, Jim Comey, the Russians, and other outside factors are unquestionably more intriguing than boring data points about education levels and voters.
But just because the truth is boring, doesn't make it any less true.
Jay Caruso (@JayCaruso) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is an editorial writer at the Dallas Morning News and a contributor to National Review.
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