Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Get It

It’s identity and interests (not ideology and principles), stupid.


The Atlantic recently published a piece about the so-called “80-55-40 Rule” in Presidential elections. It’s a rally-the-troops puff piece about the inevitability of Hillary Clinton’s victory in November, and it’s woefully reported. The basic assertion is that the Democratic candidate never has received less than 80% of the Black vote, 55% of the Hispanic vote and 40% of the White vote in a modern Presidential race, so we should assume the same pattern will obtain this November and view with skepticism any polls show Mrs. Clinton with lower support among those groups.

The author of the piece, Derek Thompson, then makes a few breathtakingly snarky remarks about Trump attempting to boost his support among undecided Hispanics by “posing next to a taco salad” and that “under certain quantum-theory conditions, all sorts of things are possible: Time can move backwards, tornados can build neighborhoods from pieces of homes floating in the sky, and a cracked egg can leap into its original unbroken shell.” Wow. Just wow.  That’s a whole lot of top-notch snark. One doesn’t usually get that from a once-respectable publication.

But you know, I wasn’t aware that almost 1-in-3 tornados was a member of the National Association of Homebuilders. After all, even Nate Silver puts Donald Trump’s chances of a November win at around 29% (as of July 14), which initially struck me as a tad higher than the rate at which tornados build new neighborhoods in the Midwest. Or higher than the odds chefs usually place on eggs spontaneously reassembling themselves in their shells. But what do I know? I don’t have a writing gig at a prestigious national publication, I don’t live in the Great Plains, and my wife does all the cooking.

Derek, when taking about recent polling results, also forgets to do his research, especially with respect to polling results among Whites — the single largest racial or ethnic voting group. Though, strangely, he does seems to do his homework for Blacks and Hispanics. Hillary Clinton has long been polling in the mid- to upper 30s among Whites in two-way polls, and well below that in polls that include 3rd-party candidates (a mini Perot effect?). This busts Derek’s 40% floor; there goes the election.

The hubristic tone of the piece is completely out of line with reality: Instead of gloating over the inevitability of Mrs. Clinton’s election, Derek should be running around screaming like his hair is on fire over the fact that Hillary can’t hit the minimum required Democratic share of the White vote except on her luckiest days (and most skewed polling samples). White Democrats supported Bernie Sanders, not Mrs. Clinton, and now seem unusually reluctant (like Bernie himself) to rally around the nominee-apparent. But this is a rally-the-troops puff piece intended to keep the Outer Party faithful faithful, not a sober-headed analysis of the strength’s and weaknesses of Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy.

And we haven’t even seen the chaos that various protest movements are promising at the major political conventions, or the televised debates during which Mr. Trump will — I predict — ceaselessly mock and berate Mrs. Clinton in a highly entertaining if somewhat déclassé fashion that will net him ever-increasing quantities of free publicity. How all that will play in Peoria will be interesting indeed.

Frankly, I’m not surprised by Mrs. Clinton’s present polling results. This election is now about identity and interests, not about ideology and principles. Plenty of native-born Americans (Whites, but I would not be surprised to see more Hispanics come aboard) have concluded that the establishment Democratic party is no longer looking out for the interests of the average working citizen: wage competition from unchecked immigration; cultural dilution and lack of assimilation from unchecked immigration (especially from locales more exotic than Europe and Mexico); economic insecurity and exploitation due to offshoring and due to pro-Wall Street financial / anti-trust regulation; crime, terrorism and physical security worries… this is what’s on people’s minds. Abortion debates, gay marriage fights and trans*whatever rights can wait until you have a steady job, decent paycheck and some assurance that a crazed Irish gunman won’t randomly shoot you up (yes, I know the odds of being involved in a terrorism incident are low — we’re talking about people’s worries and the headlines, not about the car crashes, heart attacks, strokes and cancer cases which will kill most of us eventually). The Democratic party has long been in bed with the trade unions and used to be the party of the workingman. But that’s long gone.

Donald Trump is not your establishment Republican candidate, but he has keenly detected an underlying deep concern among the people and put first his identity-and-interests positions in favor of taxpaying Americans. He will clean up on this basis. Will a Bernie Sanders supporter, who’s been banging on relentlessly about Wall Street exploitation and the need for fair wages, feel good about his Democratic nominee — enough to show up in November and convince all his friends to do the same — especially when she attempts to distract from these bread-and-butter issues by saying: “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow would that end racism? Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the L.G.B.T. community? Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?”

Hillary’s positioning herself, in terms of identity politics, as the champion of the fringes and weirdos. Banging on about Racism? That appeals to Blacks — about 12% of the population. Haven’t seen many Hispanics at Black Lives Matter marches (especially not after George Zimmerman took it on the chin). Banging on about LGBT issues? That’s maybe 2-4% of the population. Immigrants? They’re not allowed to vote. Sexism? You’d think that would appeal to women, at 50% of the population, but you’d be wrong: The substantial majority of women (and an even larger proportion of men) seem to be turned-off by “feminism” and the overly-shrill beating of the “sexism” drum.

In short: Hillary Clinton and the establishment Democrats don’t understand the motives and themes of this election. They will struggle mightily as a result.

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