Political Animal


November 05, 2012 1:01 PM Multi-Racial Coalitions

By Ed Kilgore

Kathleen Geier here at PA over the weekend; Brother Benen this morning; and many others have noted with great annoyance the meme that Obama’s relative weakness among white voters somehow makes him un-representative of “America” or negates the possibility of him having any sort of mandate if he wins. The idea seems to be that white votes somehow count more than others.

But a somewhat different angle on this issue is significant, too. If we do indeed have a country divided on racial lines, which party is more likely to have an incentive to represent all Americans, and a clue about how to do it? The one that is drawing 5% support from African-Americans and around 25% among Latinos? Or the one that is drawing a majority of its vote from white folks along with big majorities of the votes of African-Americans and Latinos? You do the math.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • DCSusie on November 05, 2012 1:23 PM:

    Thank you Ed! It would seem that in a country that is rapidly approaching a 50-50 white/nonwhite split, the guy that is drawing approximately half of his votes from each group is a lot less 'polarizing' than the one who is drawing 90 percent plus of his vote from one group.

  • Bob on November 05, 2012 1:32 PM:


    You know this better than most but we first have a country divided by ancient (by American standards) geographic differences.

    A majority of white LVs in the NE favor Obama as well as substantial minorities in the West and Midwest. Whites clobber Obama only in the South.

    Pew Research October 31-November 2, 2012
    REGION: Obama / Romney / Don't Know
    Northeast: 51% / 41% / 8%
    Midwest: 42% / 51% / 7%
    South: 27% / 66% / 7%
    West: 45% / 48% / 7%


  • Ned on November 05, 2012 1:55 PM:

    Agree. Also, the narrative you're pointing to is an element of the whole "divided country" meme -- which is productive for journalists looking for something to write about (a sore to scratch at) but leads just about nowhere in terms of solutions to actual problems....

  • Josef K on November 05, 2012 2:35 PM:

    You do the math.

    Sounds like something Nate Silver would say.

    Just sayin'.

  • Barbara on November 05, 2012 2:55 PM:

    As a white person it just angers me no end to be stereotyped in this manner. If whites constitute 70% of the vote and Obama wins 40% overall (much higher in non-southern states as pointed out) then 28% of all voters will be white people voting for Obama. If African-Americans constitute 15% of the national electorate, and 90% vote for Obama, then 13.5% of all voters will A-As voting for Obama. If Hispanic voters are at 10%, and 70% go for Obama, then 7% of all voters will be Latino voters who vote for Obama. Obama would need less than 1/3 of the remaining 5% (Native American, various Asian subgroups), but if he gets half, that would put him at 51% of all voters, such that a majority of Obama voters will almost certainly be white people even if a majority of white voters voted for Romney.

    In this regard, the white vote is much more fractured than the A-A or Latino vote, and that fracture is regional. And that's not even getting into the breakdown by gender.

  • schtick on November 05, 2012 3:03 PM:

    Of course the teapubs represent all races in the US. Their motto is: Let "those people" pay their tithe and be happy at the crumbs we throw them.
    That covers everyone in America that isn't rich. Sadly, it also covers most teapubs, including the ones living off the government crumbs.

  • jjm on November 05, 2012 3:10 PM:

    Sorry, I am not acquainted with a single white person who is not voting for Obama.

  • exlibra on November 05, 2012 4:33 PM:

    Count your blessings, jjm, @ 3:10PM; I am and it's not pleasant. It's not that I hang around with them -- almost everyone at the Dem HQ is white, like myself, but I run into them, elsewhere, far too often for comfort. But then, I live in south-western Virginia... My own "city" (we registered 709 new voters this cycle, for the grand total of 4,134) leans left, but the surrounding county is redder than a boiled lobster; redder than a turkey's wattle. We are all both gratified and surprised that the Obama campaign still hasn't given up on us. Though, I suppose, every vote counts for something, even if the total is discouraging.

    Anecdotal, but kind-of typical of the county: the county's Dem chairman requested as many signs as possible which list all three candidates (Obama, Kaine for Senate and a guy named Schmookler, for Congress), instead of individual signs, for each. The way he explained it... those signs are less likely to be defaced, destroyed or stolen. What is he basing that claim on? The fact that where there were three individual signs, only the Obama ones were messed with (the other two guys are white). True, a presidential race is much more visible than the other two, but, still...

    "projective nXiall". Yup, it's those "y'all" counties that worry one.