Sorting through the Wikileaked Democratic National Committee emails I ran across an unexpected subject line: “Trump on to something.”
Indeed? The May 10, 2016 email was from DNC press secretary Mark Paustenbach to communications director Luis Miranda. Attached were the results of the May 10 Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll of battleground states Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The excerpted portion of the poll in the email read:
From Florida section: “Republicans’ weakness among minority voters is well known. But the reason this race is so close overall is Clinton’s historic weakness among white men. In Florida, she is getting just 25 percent from white men,” Brown said.
This is what Donald Trump is onto: white men have no reason at all to vote for Hillary.
This should not be a news flash to Democrats. Barack Obama only got 39 percent white voter support in 2012, and still won, even though white voters made up 72 percent of the electorate. This tracks with the mainstream media narrative that white voters, particularly white men, are being increasingly marginalized and the future belongs to voters of color.
But what this poll and others show is that perhaps the Democrats have taken the narrative a little too far. After all, 72 percent of the electorate is a significant portion. And while white voters may be “aging out,” older and proportionately whiter voters participate at significantly higher levels than youngsters, and are definitely not with Hillary.
The most recent (July 13) Quinnipiac poll tells the same story. In Pennsylvania, Trump leads Hillary among white men by 25 points. In Ohio he leads by 26. And in Florida Trump leads among white men by a commanding 37 percent.
This dynamic is not limited to men. Despite perennial rhetoric about the widening gender gap, when race is taken into consideration the gap mostly vanishes. In the aforementioned polls, Hillary only leads Donald Trump with white women in Ohio, by four points, 43/39. In Pennsylvania, Trump leads among white women by twelve percent, and in Florida by thirteen. This shows that the more significant gender gap is among men, and it works decidedly against Democrats.
The Clinton campaign is franticly trying to stem the bleeding. Bringing former Virginia governor Tim Kaine on the ticket was a transparent sop to middle class white men. Mrs. Clinton’s implausible flip-flop on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, which she previously said “sets the gold standard in trade agreements,” is an attempt to reach out to the white working class.
The shift is so jarring that Democrats are having a hard time getting their story straight. Virginia governor and Clinton consiglieri Terry McAuliffe flailed around for a few days trying to correct his completely believable statement that Hillary would just go ahead and approve TPP after the election. And former Pennsylvania Democratic governor Ed Rendell had to walk back a thoughtfully bipartisan comment that Donald Trump was “right on trade” with respect to TPP, clarifying that he meant to say Hillary Clinton was.
Will Democrats be able to convince working class whites to come back to the fold? First they will have to overcome their fundamental contempt for American values. On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) asserted that “white, non-college educated white males have voted … against their own economic interests because of guns, because of gays, and because of God, the three G’s.”
Shades of Barack Obama in 2008 declaiming people in the devastated rust belt whose “jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them” and who “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Eight years of Obama policies have not improved things for this group. They understand their economic interests. And now they are turning out for Donald Trump in droves. He’s on to something all right.
James S. Robbins is a USA Today columnist and author of Native Americans: Patriotism, Exceptionalism and the New American Identity.