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The Receding Floor

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Each time you think, My god, surely it can’t sink lower, there’s a new cabinet appointment or tweet, and you plummet down further.

This post-election reality has a receding floor.

I can imagine a nutshell of sanity inside President-elect Trump from which, in a tiny voice, he’s screaming, “How could you let me get this far?” and “Why didn’t somebody stop me?”

One day, historians, if they still exist, will have to cope with baffled students studying this period, asking “But how could they—?” and “But why didn’t you—?”

So here are some facts to help us try to see a bit more clearly, because there’s an avalanche of misinformation out there. Hopefully, some of the following, which you aren’t necessarily reading elsewhere, will prove useful tools—especially for people dreading arguments with the relatives at Screw-the-Indigenous-Peoples Day dinner.

Weren’t you struck by the speed at which mostly white male pundits, pols, and the Left (reverting to a nineteenth-century class analysis) dismissed the idea that racism and sexism had all that much to do with the election results? No wonder important facts are getting lost in the rush of over-attention to and sentimentalizing about the working-class voter who’s in economic anguish, how it’s all about economics.

First, appallingly, such an analysis ignores black and brown working-class voters—who broke clearly for Hillary Rodham.

Second, it ignores findings by numerous sociologists and polls that white blue-collar voters were actually motivated less by economic factors then by fear of being overtaken by and losing power to men of color (whether citizens or new immigrants) and all women.

Third, it ignores the fact that working-class whites earn a median average of $72,000—which is $17,000 more than the average median US income.

Fourth, it overlooks what lies beneath the rural vote (and the Electoral College as currently structured greatly favors the rural vote): Rural is where most Trump voters reside. A census report last year noted that US cities are now home to 62.7 percent of the US population, but comprise just 3.5 percent of land area. Half the United States population is clustered in just the 146 biggest counties out of over 3000. Fourteen states—a few in the deep South, a few in New England, and a few in the Great Plains—contained none of those biggest counties, and another 19 only contained one or two. The global trend is toward cities. American youth, too, is running from rural and toward urban areas, while folks in their 50s and 60s are moving to rural and small-town destinations—and older generations have twice as many conservatives as liberals. Add to this mix that diverse populations are attracted to urban areas, as are new immigrants.

Fifth: Couple the above with a loss of faith in American institutions. That’s of course not news, but, as columnist Charles Blow noted in the New York Times, institutions are largely urban. The nation’s financial center is in New York, as are the centers of publishing (including the most influential newspapers) and broadcast media, plus the most influential cultural institutions—the performing arts, museums, music studios—all are also urban based. Gallup senior economist Jonathan Rothwell found that those who view Trump favorably are disproportionately living in racially and culturally isolated ZIP Codes and commuting zones—areas with few college graduates, ironically far from the Mexican border and from exposure to the blacks, Asians, and Hispanics they so fear.

But they’re not unexposed to women. So what about that?

Sixth: Here are some eye-opening statistics from Presidential Gender Watch at the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers.

The idea that white women “abandoned HRC” is erroneous and misleading. Democrats traditionally lose with white women: 56 percent of white women voted for Romney in 2012, 55 percent for McCain in 2008, and so on. Actually, HRC outperformed Obama among college educated white women, with 51 percent—beating Trump by six points. She also won married women by two points, the first Democratic candidate to do so in 20 years. But what explains the rest of the “suburban” white women’s vote?

Party identification. The Pew Research Center has found that the plurality of white women identified as Republicans in 2016, and among those lacking a college degree that identification has grown over the past 24 years. So far, party outweighs gender in voter decision-making. There is, however, evidence that these women moved to the undecided or Democratic columns after the Access Hollywood tapes (“Grab ’em by the . . .”) broke. But then FBI Director Comey’s letter, announcing an investigation that proved baseless, sent them scurrying home to their GOP.

Seventh: Claiming that women abandoned Hillary not only misrepresents historical facts but excludes the majority of women who did vote for her. She got 54 percent of women’s votes, with a 13 point gender gap. That includes 94 percent of African American women’s votes, on a par with the number who voted for Obama; she won 86 percent of Latinas, higher then that support for Obama in 2012.

The heart of the modern gender gap is the growing role of women of color.

In fact, this election marked the most diverse electorate in US history, with 31 percent of eligible voters from racial and ethnic minorities, for a net increase of 7.5 million eligible voters. It’s crucial to remember that many of these first-time voters bravely faced voter intimidation and voter suppression efforts, since this was the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act; 14 states implemented new voting restrictions, including cuts in polling hours and places. This must be investigated.

But yes, there is some good news. (When you spot a straw, grasp it.)

Congress will now have the highest ever level of Latino elected officials, with a record of 38, including 10 total Latinas. The Senate will include a record number of women of color. Three women join Asian American Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii: they are Asian American Tammy Duckworth, Democrat from Illinois; African American and South Asian American Kamala Harris, Democrat from California; and Catherine Cortez Musto, Democrat from Nevada and the first Latina ever elected to the United States Senate.

Meanwhile, Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington state, becomes the first South Asian woman to serve in the House of Representatives, and Lisa Blunt Rochester, Democrat of Delaware, the first woman and the first African-American woman to represent Delaware in Congress.

These are triumphs, especially when you remember that women come not only in all shapes and sizes but in colors other than white.

Next week on this blog: Goodbye To All That #3.

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