The needle budged, but that's it

Written by Peter Smith on .

Not to diminish the significance of the Virginia election results this week, but consider:

If you were hoping that something, anything would help take the edge off our raging polarization, the results were not your sign. Instead, they showed that in Virginia, a state that already bucked the Southern tide in 2016 in voting for Hillary Clinton, a near-year of President Donald Trump left Virginians only slightly bluer than before.

Trump, whether because of or despite his words and actions which have so regularly polarized us racially, has maintained as strong a support among whites as ever. And as strong a revulsion among the rest. It seems like the election results look like a matter of muscle more than anything -- who gets more voters out to the polls.

It's just that there are more blue than red people in Virginia, whereas in those special congressional elections earlier this year, it was the other way around. And everyone stayed with their tribe.

So let's look at the charts. Here's the 2017 exit poll. Here's the 2016 exit poll.

Ed Gillespie won 57 percent of white voters. That's only marginally lower than Trump won among Virginian whites last year, 59 percent. Ralph Northam won 42 percent. up 7 percent from Clinton's 35 percent. This lends credence to the idea that a Democrat with fewer negatives might have won more NeverTrump-NeverHillary voters, perhaps. I'm guessing, only guessing, that this accounts for at least some of the much-touted suburban shift toward Democrats.

Eighty percent of non-white voters went for Northam, virtually the same as went for Clinton. 

Four-fifths of white evangelical Christians went for both Trump and Gillespie. The numbers are identical. Nothing Trump did in the past year, nor that Gillespie did in taking from his anti-immigrant playbook, gave second thoughts to anyone.

It's hard not to conclude that those who were repulsed by Trump from the moment he descended the escalator and opened his mouth at Trump Tower in 2015, still are. And those who were electrified by his words then, still are. 

Elsewhere we see that in Cambria County, which made that remarkable surge toward Trump in 2016, remains anecdotally steadfast in his camp.

All this tells me that if people are reliably in their corners, then even scandalous news about Roy Moore won't affect him in Alabama.

This isn't a matter of much persuasion anymore, sadly. It's a matter of who can get out more of the vote. In 2008 and 2012, Obama did so with his coalition of a majority of the minorities and a minority of the majority. In 2016, Trump did with the opposite coalition. In 2018 and 2020, things may come down to a few swing districts and states. Let's pray we can live with the results.



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