Saturday, March 19, 2016

Those Boring Voters Supporting Hillary

I liked this little essay by Eric Sasson about the invisible voters supporting Hillary. Sasson protests too much about "the media's" focus on Trump voters and Sanders voters, but it does seem true that Hillary voters are getting less press attention. And as Sasson says, the fact that Hillary is getting millions more votes than any other candidate suggests that maybe we aren't as angry and energized as certain reporters and candidates think we are:
The voter we almost never hear about, however, is the Clinton voter. Which is surprising, since Hillary Clinton has won more votes in the primaries than any other candidate so far. She has amassed over 2.5 million more votes than Sanders; over 1.1 million more votes than Trump. Clearly Clinton voters exist, yet there has been very little analysis as to who they are or why they are showing up to vote for her. Sure, there has been talk of Clinton’s dominance among African-American voters, and, to a lesser extent, Hispanic voters. Her voters seem to skew older and more affluent. But these are demographics. (And even demographics have a hard time explaining her commanding win in Ohio, or her wins in Massachusetts and Missouri.) There is almost no discussion of what is motivating these voters. If anything, the media seems to think they are holding their noses as they vote for Hillary. As a recent New York Times article suggested, Clinton is winning “votes, not hearts.”

We never hear that Hillary Clinton has “momentum”—what she has is a “sizable delegate lead.” No one this cycle has described Clinton supporters as “fired up”—it’s simply not possible that people are fired up for Hillary. No, what we gather about Clinton from the press is that she can’t connect. She has very high unfavorable ratings. People think she is dishonest and untrustworthy. She is not a gifted politician. She is a phony. Hated by so many. The list goes on.

Considering that narrative, one would expect Clinton to be faring far worse in the primaries. Instead, she currently holds a popular vote and delegate lead over Sanders that far surpasses Obama’s lead over her at this point in the race in 2008.

This is no accident. An examination of Clinton voters and their motivations might reveal that the narrative that most media outlets have been feeding us this election cycle is dubious at best. Because if the biggest vote-getter of either party is Hillary—by a large margin—then that suggests the electorate is not necessarily as angry as pundits claim. It further suggests that perhaps some people are tired of hearing about how angry they are, and are quietly asserting their opinions at the ballot box. If Democrats are so angry, Clinton would not be in the position she is today. Is it really so farfetched to claim that quite a few Democrats aren’t voting for Sanders precisely because he seems angry? Which isn’t to suggest that people aren’t angry—certainly many Republican primary voters seem to be. Rather, it is to suggest that voters who aren’t angry are still showing up at the polls, despite being ignored in news stories.
We love stories about fired-up outsiders taking on the establishment, written off by insiders but still marching on to win with passion and energy. Political reports seem particularly vulnerable to this obsession, just like science reporters can't resist stories about radical new theories overturning the entrenched orthodoxy. But all the evidence suggests that Hillary speaks for the biggest block of voters in America, the pragmatists. People who want to make the government work better, not blow it up; people who believe in compromise as an ideal, not just a tactic; people suspicious of revolutions and fairly certain that most other Americans don't really want one, either; people who understand that what we want from the government must be balanced against what we are willing to pay in taxes; people who cringe at talk of carpet bombing whole countries but worry that if we completely withdraw from the Middle East it will be taken over by criminal regimes exporting terrorism and refugees. It has long been asserted that most Americans are moderate by instinct, and I think Hillary's success shows that this is still true.

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