February 29, 2016

JOEL KOTKIN: Why Hillary And Trump Are Winning: Race Seals The Class Deal.

Racial divisions will shape the Democratic results Super Tuesday. The party’s Southern flank, weak in November but important now, tends to be dominated by African Americans and, in Texas, at least, also Latinos. In some states, like South Carolina, where African Americans constitute upward of a majority, Clinton has proven all but unbeatable.

In contrast, Clinton did poorly in New Hampshire (94 percent white) and barely earned a tie in Iowa (92 percent white). Generally speaking, the whiter the state, the better things tend to appear for Sanders.

These patterns may well dominate Super Tuesday results. In Texas, Alabama, Georgia and, to a lesser extent, Virginia, minority voters could well propel the former secretary of state closer to the nomination. But such heavily Caucasian states as Massachusetts (80 percent white), Wyoming, North Dakota, Minnesota (85 percent white) and Sanders’ home state of Vermont (95 percent white) seem most likely to end up “feeling the Bern.” . . .

Just as Sanders’ strategy thrives on younger white and working-class voters, Trump appeals to the mostly older part of America’s beleaguered white working class. Many belong to the growing “precariat” – people who are working, many part time or on short-term gigs, but lacking long-term security. According to one estimate, at least one-third of the U.S. workforce falls into this category, and the numbers are growing. By 2020, a separate study estimates that more than 40 percent of the American workforce – or 60 million people – will be independent workers: freelancers, contractors or temporary employees.

Trump’s class appeal spills over to racial issues. Unlike wealthier voters, poor whites compete for jobs with immigrants and also tend to live where poor minorities also settle. Overall, according to Pew, voters under financial stress tend to be more concerned about illegal immigration. They also tend to work in fields, such as construction and manufacturing, where the foreign-born constitute a disproportionate share of the workforce.

But it would be a mistake to see Trump’s anti-immigrant message as appealing only to whites. The fact that Trump won the lion’s share of Hispanic Republicans in Nevada against two Latino candidates should alter some presumptions and does not bode well for Cruz and Rubio. One possible overlooked factor: A majority of Latinos, in contrast to their open-borders-minded leadership, according to some surveys, already believe overall immigration levels are too high. What seems like racism to college professors and journalists might seem more like economic salvation to struggling families, even ones with roots in Latin America.

Still, overall, the Republican race is about white voters.

Yeah, believe it or not there are actually a lot of white voters out there. They could be an important — who knows, maybe even decisive — influence on the outcome. But there’s also this:

The predictable left-of-center analysis is that the future will be determined by an increasingly diverse, largely Democratic electorate. “(We are) facing a future in which national elections will no longer be decided by ideas, but by numbers. It will be a turnout battle between people who believe in a multicultural vision for the country and those who don’t,” Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone. “Every other issue, from taxes to surveillance to war to jobs to education, will take a distant back seat to this ongoing, moronic referendum on white victimhood.”

Taibbi’s lack of sympathy for the “moronic” struggling white working and middle classes is shockingly typical of the coastal cognoscenti, who are comfortable and benefit from the labor of minority service workers, ethnic restaurants and street culture. Yet the mouthing of “people of color” rhetoric may prove less compelling if Trump can get his economic message out, particularly against Clinton, who is rightfully seen as a well-paid tool of Democratic-leaning Wall Street, Silicon Valley and their public-sector allies.

One key factor may be African Americans, whose self-interests were submerged in service to President Obama. Trump could appeal to them with his tough stand on immigration.

Yeah, though he might want to be a little quicker to condemn white supremacists if he wants to pick up the black vote.