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Teixeira: Will Gerrymandering Block Democratic Wave?

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

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In a word, no. That is to say, if there is a decent sized wave the Democrats have an excellent chance of taking back the House, despite the fact they are disadvantaged by gerrymandering. And by a decent-sized wave, I don’t mean the Democrats carrying the House popular vote by a gaudy margin of 8-10 points or more. They can probably do it with considerably less.

Alan Abramowitz shows this in an elegant little analysis just published on Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Abramowitz controls for the effect of post-2010 gerrymandering–which he does find is significant and large–and still finds that the Democrats could get a House majority with around 52 percent of the two party House vote (prior to 2010, the model indicates that slightly less than a majority of the popular vote–49 percent–would have sufficed).

And 52 percent looks like a pretty easy target to hit, based on results we have been seeing in the generic Congressional ballot polling. Abramowitz notes:

In recent weeks, Democrats have been averaging a lead of between eight and 10 points according to RealClearPolitics….that large a lead on the generic ballot would predict a popular vote margin of around five points and a gain of between 30 and 33 seats in the House — enough to give Democrats a modest but clear majority.

There you have it. Gerrymandering is bad….but it is far from an insuperable obstacle.


Resistance to Net Neutrality Repeal Will Provide a Hot Mess for GOP

The timing of net neutrality repeal may well be a deliberate effort to distract voters from the brutal Republican tax bill. But net neutrality repeal may nonetheless make the GOP and its corporate supporters rue the day that they linked their images to this ill-considered measure. As John Nichols writes in his article, “Gutting Net Neutrality Is the Trump Administration’s Most Brutal Blow to Democracy Yet: This cannot be the end of a free and open Internet. Activists must fight on in the courts, in Congress, and in the streets” in The Nation:

…Despite overwhelming public support for a free and open Internet, the CFC’s Trump-aligned majority engineered a 3-2 vote to overturn net-neutrality rules that have required Internet service providers to treat all online communications equally—and, in a related move, the commission majority rejected the authority of the FCC to protect a free and open Internet.

Commission chair Ajit Pai, the telecommunications-industry lawyer who has done Donald Trump’s bidding in debates on a host of media and democracy issues, has cleared the way for service providers to establish information superhighways for political and corporate elites, while consigning communications from grassroots activists to digital dirt roads…Pai and his associates have moved to create what former FCC commissioner Michael Copps refers to as “a gatekeeper’s paradise,” where “our civic dialogue—the news and information upon which a successful self-governing society depends upon—would be further eroded.”

…Much of the debate about overturning net neutrality has been focused on the damage the move will do to consumers, and there can be no question that clearing the way for unprecedented profiteering by telecommunications corporations barters off our digital future to the same grifters who have turned broadcast- and cable-media platforms into vast wastelands of commercial excess. “ISPs want to turn the internet into cable,” says Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA). “[They] want people to pay for every application.”

Nichols adds that “Net neutrality’s defenders will fight on in Congress, in the courts and at the ballot box to overturn this wrongheaded decision. Groups associated with the Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition—led by the Center for Media Justice, Color Of Change, Free Press Action Fund, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and 18 Million Rising—intend to fight on for net neutrality with legislative and legal strategies…State attorneys general will also be suing. California, New York and Washington have all announced plans to sue — and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says he expects to that many more states will join the initiative.”

It’s hard to imagine any other initiative that would do more to piss off young voters. David Shepardson and Ginger Gibson of Reuters explain how “Net neutrality repeal gives U.S. Democrats fresh way to reach millennials,” and observe that “Democrats are hoping to paint the repeal of the rules by the FCC, which is now chaired by President Donald Trump appointee Ajit Pai, as evidence Republicans are uninterested in young people and consumer concerns at large.” Further,

Studies show young people disproportionately use the internet compared with older Americans and polls have shown they feel passionately about fair and open internet access. Democrats believe the issue may resonate with younger voters who may not be politically active on other issues like taxes or foreign policy…Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist, said polls have found young people are favouring Democrats in the most recent elections and that the net neutrality issue could be used to gather support in the 2018 midterm congressional elections.

He said while older voters tend to care about Medicare, polls are finding that younger voters are motivated by net neutrality…”Net neutrality is the latest data point for voters that the administration is more interested in doing what big companies want them to do, than what people think is in their interest,“ Ferguson said. ”That’s a narrative that is politically toxic for Republicans.”

Gibson and Shepardson note that “Democrats facing difficult election battles next year are already weighing in strongly in favour of net neutrality rules…Senator Bill Nelson likely will face a difficult battle in Florida and sent a letter earlier in the week opposing the change in net neutrality rules. Several Democratic candidates are sending campaign fundraising appeals citing net neutrality…The changes could also become issues in a number of House races across the country, where Democrats will need to win more than 25 seats to control the chamber.”

Harper Neidig writes at The Hill that “More than 80 percent of voters oppose the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) plan to repeal its net neutrality rules, according to a new poll from the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation…The survey presented respondents with detailed arguments from both supporters and opponents of the repeal plan, before asking them where they stood on the rules. It found that 83 percent overall favored keeping the FCC rules, including 75 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of independents.”

Regarding congressional action to challenge net neutrality repeal, Don Seifert writes in the Boston Business Journal that, “Just minutes after the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal rules intended to bar internet service providers from blocking or slowing down specific websites, Sen. Edward Markey said he’s filing a bill to put it back in place…Markey authored a resolution, which was signed on by 14 other Democratic senators and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, that would rescind FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s vote to repeal the 2015 net neutrality rules.” Expect that Markey’s bill is going to get a lot more Democratic sponsors in short order.

As for protest against coporations behind the repeal of net neutrality, it’s clear that three companies more than any others, are spear-heading repeal. As Lee Drutman and Zander Furnas note at the Dot,  “Going back to 2005 (when the phrase “net neutrality” first shows up in lobbying disclosure reports), the principle’s biggest opponents (Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and their allies) have lobbied against net neutrality about three times as hard as the biggest proponents of neutrality…” These three companies are highly vulnerable to boycotts and stockholders campaigns.


From Kingmaker to “The Cooler,” Bannon’s Stock as GOP Strategist Plummets

Just a few days ago Steve Bannon was a GOP kingmaker who had the President’s ear in his hip pocket. Today his cred as a Republican strategist lies squandered in the fading wake of Roy Moore’s humiliating defeat. As Paul Farhi explains in his article, “Alabama was supposed to turn Steve Bannon and Breitbart into kingmakers. Now what?” at The Washingon Post:

The election of Democrat Doug Jones was a stunning rejection of Bannon and the right-wing news-and-commentary website that pushed Moore’s candidacy despite questions about his moral character — he is accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls while in his 30s — let alone his ability to win an election long assumed to be a slam dunk for any conventional Republican candidate.

The Alabama results suggest that a reckoning is due for both Bannon and Breitbart, whose influence and audience grew exponentially during Trump’s presidential campaign. Since then, as support for Trump has declined, so has Breitbart’s traffic, settling back to the 15 million people a month it drew before a spike around the election last year.

Farhi quotes former Breitbart editor and frequent Bannon critic Ben Shapiro, who says,

“Steve Bannon lost an unloseable race…He thought [Moore] was the best pick of his life. His ego is so wild and his incompetence so large that he brought about the Kama Sutra of political debauchery. Every wrong move in the book was on full display here.”

Bannon stuck with Moore even when a more prudent strategist would have assessed the candidate as fatally wounded and urged a replacement like Jeff Sessions, who gave up the seat in January to become Trump’s attorney general, Shapiro said.

Instead, he said, Bannon doubled down, persuading Trump to throw his support behind Moore, which reluctantly drew the Republican National Committee back into supporting him. Shapiro, excoriating his old boss, said Bannon “grabs onto power with both hands, and he doesn’t let go. But he has so little to show for it and has earned so little of it himself.”

If Trump still feels he owes his election to Bannon, he may now refocus and see Bannon as a reckless ideologue. Trump likes to divide humanity into two camps, winners and losers, and all of a sudden Bannon is looking more like the political equivalent of “The Cooler.” Republican candidates who want to win would now be wise to pay attention to what Bannon advocates — and do the opposite.

Despite President Trump’s proclaimations about how he prizes loyalty, his record is more one of dumping associates in trouble, usually right around the moment that they have become a liability. Now for example, it’s “Roy who?,” instead of “Roy Moore will always vote with us. VOTE ROY MOORE!” The pattern is a few nice words about the associate about to be dumped, followed by acrid denunciations within a few weeks.

Callum Borchers writes, also at The Post,

“Trump’s direct involvement in the race was almost certainly orchestrated by Bannon, and you would expect Trump, who cares more about winning and losing than anyone, to place the blame at Bannon’s feet,” added Kurt Bardella, president of Endeavor Strategies and a former Breitbart spokesman…

Nevertheless, Bannon could find a way to keep the president’s ear, Bardella said…“Bannon will spin to Trump that last night is the result of a biased media and that Moore is the victim of the ‘fake news,’ the same way Trump is,” Bardella said. “He will try to play to Trump’s worst instincts to preserve his influence. Trump is susceptible to this, as we have seen repeatedly.”

Breitbart and Bannon will still have their die-hard supporters, and gullible primary challengers may seek their counsel now and again. Bannon is already involved in supporting Catherine Templeton in her Republican renegade run for Governor of South Carolina — against Trump’s favored candidate, Governor Henry McMaster, “which could mirror the GOP contest in Alabama that led to Moore’s nomination and ultimate defeat,” notes Meg Kinnard in her AP post, “How Does Alabama Loss Affect Bannon’s S. Carolina Gov Role?

Jonathan Allen writes at NBC news that Bannon’s latest ploy is to blame Moore’s defeat on Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. Despite McConnell’s tanking approval ratings, that’s going to be a tough sell outside Bannon’s shrinking circle of supporters.

No matter what Bannon undertakes in the near future, however, the very last thing most competitive Republican candidates want to see is Steve Bannon getting off a plane in their states. “I think we got this, but thanks anyway.” As far as Democratic strategy is concerned, the prudent thing to do is just get out of the way, and enjoy the GOP’s demolition derby.


Teixeira: What the Exit Polls Tell Us about How Doug Jones Won

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

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Senator-elect Doug Jones with wife and partner Louise New Jones

Well, quite a night. How’d it happen–what got Doug Jones over the finish line ahead? The exit polls, interestingly, tell a story that was prefigured by an earlier poll that I posted about back on December 3:

The Washington Post/Schar School poll, a poll that gives Jones a 3 point lead among likely voters, shows how [a Jones victory] will happen, if it does happen. First, overwhelming support from blacks, combined with solid turnout (this poll has blacks at about a quarter of likely voters, which is good but not unreasonably high). Then mega-swings in the white vote relative to 2016. Trump carried the white vote by 70 points in Alabama in 2016. In this poll, Moore carries the white vote by a mere 30 points (63-33).

This scenario more or less came to pass, according to the exit polls. Black voters made up 28 percent of the electorate–beating their share in the Post poll– and supported Jones by 96-4. And Jones lost white voters by 36 points (31-67), pretty close to the deficit in the Post poll (especially when one keeps in mind that exit polls have a chronic tendency to overestimate Democratic deficits among whites). This 36 point deficit is about half the 70 point deficit Clinton ran up among white voters in the state in 2016.

Breaking down white voters between college and noncollege, noncollege whites supported Moore by 54 points–strong, but not as strong as the 77 point margin they gave Trump in 2016. White college graduates supported Moore by a mere 16 points (57-41), a mega-swing away from the GOP compared to the 55 point margin these voters gave Trump in 2016.

While I don’t have information on the gender breakdown of these voters in 2016, it’s worth noting that Jones had a mere 5 point deficit among white college women, according to this year’s exit poll. This suggests an unusually large swing by these voters toward Jones. A harbinger of what we’ll see in 2018?


Teixeira: Whoa! Jones Up by 10 Over Moore in New Fox News Poll

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

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Does this mean Jones is probably going to win? Nah. The RCP polling average still has Moore up by 2.5 points, so I guess I’d still make him the favorite. But you’ve gotta classify this latest poll–and the Fox News poll is typically a high-quality poll and therefore better than the a lot of the lower shelf pollsters who’ve worked this race–as good news. It ain’t over ’til it’s over.

The internals of the Fox poll look very good for Jones, hitting support benchmarks that should produce a victory for Jones if they happen in the real world: a 20 point deficit among whites, a near tie among white college graduates and a mere 33 point deficit among white noncollege voters (trust me, that’s good). But which voters will really show up?: not just the relative numbers of white and black voters but which type of voters within a given demographic; perhaps the likely white voters in the Fox News poll aren’t actually a good representation of the white voters who who will show up on Tuesday. Just how much things can move around depending on how you capture and weight that likely voter sample is shown very clearly here by SurveyMonkey’s Mark Blumenthal.

So hold on to your popcorn! It could be a wild ride.


Polls Indicate Dem Pick-up of Senate Seat in Alabama Still Possible

No matter what the doomsayers say, progresssives should not allow themselves to get unduly pessimistic about Democratic prospects for defeating Roy Moore in Alabama and picking up a U.S. Senate seat. According to Harry Enten’s fivethirtyeight.com post, “Doug Jones Is Just A Normal Polling Error Away From A Win In Alabama,”

A look at all U.S. Senate election polls since 19982 shows that their average error — how far off the polls were from the actual election result — is more than a percentage point higher than the average error in presidential polling. Also, Alabama polls have been volatile, this is an off-cycle special election with difficult-to-predict turnout, and there haven’t been many top-quality pollsters surveying the Alabama race. So even though Moore is a favorite, Democrat Doug Jones is just a normal polling error away from winning. (Or, by the same token, Moore could win comfortably.)

The polls in Alabama have swung back and forth between Moore and Jones over the past month. The Washington Post first reported on allegations against Moore on Nov. 9, and after that, surveys indicated that the race was moving in Jones’s direction. He held an average advantage of 5 percentage points in polls that were taken six or seven days following the story. Since then, polls have Moore ahead by 3 points, on average, although Jones led by 3 points in a Washington Post poll. (That’s the only recent survey that meets FiveThirtyEight’s gold standard.3)

Fair enough. There is not a lot of data to be bullish about there. But certainly it could be worse. Enten adds, “Simply put, Senate polling has not been especially predictive over the past 10 cycles. Among the 2,075 Senate polls in the FiveThirtyEight database that were taken within 21 days of an election, the average error has been 5.1 percentage points. And that has been fairly consistent across cycles. The 2016 Senate polls featured an average error of 5.2 percentage points.”

However, adds Enten, “the chance of a big error may be unusually high in Alabama. Because of the unusual timing of the election, pollsters may have a difficult time determining who is going to turn out to vote.”

Poll analyst Ruy Teixeira notes that, in the Washington Post poll, Jones pulled about 33 percent suppport from Alabama white voters, which is the same percentage another poll analyst Geoffrey Skelley says Jones must receive to win — provided there is a strong African American turnout favoring Jones at least 9-1.

In addition, Moore’s late-breaking gaffe,“I think it [America] was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another…. Our families were strong, our country had a direction.” is the sort of comment that could energize African American voters, and possibly serve as a ‘last straw’ for other voters who may prefer to stay home, vote for the write-in candidate, or even vote for Democrat Doug Jones rather than cast a ballot for Moore. And there is always the possibility that write-in candidate Col. Lee “Hold My Beer” Busby will take a healthier than expected bite from Moore’s tally, energized by a crritical mass of upright conservatives who are embarrassed by Moore’s sleazy record.

That’s a lot of “ifs,” granted. But, overall Dems have done a little better than expected in 2017 special elections. We’re not expecting a blue wave here. But it’s just possible that a majority of Alabama voters on Tuesday will be ready to bring their state into the 21st century.


Inside the GOP Vision for America’s Health Care

Writing in The Progressive, Ramon Catleblanch paints a frightening picture of the Republican vision for America’s health care, as previewed in their tax legislation. Catleblanch’s article, “The Tax Bill Is Just the First Strike in the GOP War on Medicare and Medicaid,” explains:

This month’s congressional Republican tax legislation is a planned first strike against Medicare, Medicaid, and many other essential federal programs. Senator Marco Rubio admitted as much last week when he said that Republicans will have to institute “structural changes to Social Security and Medicare” to pay for the increases in federal debt created by their tax plan.

The published House Republican plan, known as “A Better Way,” raises the eligibility age for Medicare from age 65 to 67. And it does not allow newly retired seniors to receive traditional Medicare, but rather forces them into buying medical insurance with a government voucher. As the voucher could be for much less than the prices of available insurance, these seniors could have to pay large premiums.

The insurance available for those seniors to buy would be inferior to current Medicare. House Republicans have specifically called for a 20 percent copay for all services, including hospital care. This plan would also raise the deductible for outpatient care to about $1,500 per year. With such a high deductible, many seniors would likely forego essential care, leading to illnesses and injuries getting out of control and, in some cases, deaths.

And, “even after the 20 percent copay, physicians would not have to accept Medicare insurance payment as payment-in-full,” adds Castellblanch. Further, “medical groups could send supplemental bills to patients. If the patients didn’t pay those bills, physicians could then send collections agents after Medicare patients.” As a result, he predicts “for the first time in over fifty years, America would have an uninsured senior crisis.”

The GOP plan for Medicaid is “no less Draconian.” Federal funding foer tyhe program would be gutted by block grants and service cutbacks, and there would be newe premium requirements imposed by states. Thewre would also be drastic cuts in Medicaid funds for nursing homes, forcing staff cutbacks and closures.

As for “the repeal of the individual mandate to buy health insurance,” Maggie Fox writes at nbcnews.com,

While the mandate is unpopular among voters, it was a must-have for health insurance companies. They demanded such a mandate to even take part in the health insurance exchanges set up by the 2010 Affordable Care Act, and without it, many more can be expected to hike premiums or drop out altogether from the Obamacare markets, experts predict.

“If the requirement to carry adequate health insurance disappears, so will the health care coverage of many Americans,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said in a statement…“As insurance rolls decrease, premiums will rise an average of 10 percent,” Brown said. “Paying more for health insurance will be a heavy weight to carry if you have a pre-existing condition like heart disease or stroke. We fervently believe this provision should be rejected and removed from the final legislation.”

In his New Yorker article, “The Passage of the Senate Republican Tax Bill Was a Travesty,” John Cassidy notes,

…The bill also included the repeal of the individual mandate to purchase health-care insurance, a provision that would undo much of the good Collins did when she voted against the Republican health-care bill. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it would raise the number of uninsured Americans by thirteen million, and raise the premiums on individual plans by ten per cent. Using a tax bill to abolish the individual mandate amounts to a backdoor way of sabotaging Obamacare. Collins, Murkowski, and McCain have yet to explain why they went along with it.

By even moderate progressive standards, the Republican tax bill that emerges from the conference committee will likely be a regressive monstrosity of historic proportions. What it will bode for their vision of America’s health care will be  even more disturbing. If Democrats needed more encouragement to mobilize a landslide for the 2018 midterm elections, that should do the trick.


Teixeira: How Doug Jones Can Beat Roy Moore

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

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It won’t be easy. But the Washington Post/Schar School poll, a poll that gives Jones a 3 point lead among likely voters, shows how it will happen, if it does happen. First, overwhelming support from blacks, combined with solid turnout (this poll has blacks at about a quarter of likely voters, which is good but not unreasonably high). Then mega-swings in the white vote relative to 2016. Trump carried the white vote by 70 points in Alabama in 2016. In this poll, Moore carries the white vote by a mere 30 points (63-33).

The Post poll allows one to break down the white vote by college and noncollege. The poll has white noncollege voters supporting Moore by “only” 42 points. That sounds like a lot but compared to Trump’s 77 point margin among this group in 2016, it’s not bad. And there are twice as many white noncollege voters as white college voters so that swing, if it happens, will loom pretty large in determining the outcome. We can’t break white noncollege down between men and women but judging from other data in the poll, it seems plausible that white noncollege women will drive the swing. How much they move could determine Alabama’s next Senator.


Tomasky: It’s Time for a ‘Popular Front’ Against Trumpism

At The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky expresses support for Brookings scholar Benjamin Wittes’ 18-point proposal, tweeted last weekend, urging a broad, bipartisan coalition to end Trump’s reign of chaos. As Tomasky writes, “all decent people of left and right must set aside their differences and unite to defeat Trump and Trumpism.”  Tomasky explains further,

Under the hashtags #CoalitionofAllDemocraticForces and #IBelieve, Wittes argued that he wants to see “a temporary truce on all [questions of disagreement], an agreement to maintain the status quo on major areas of policy dispute while Americans of good faith collectively band together to face a national emergency. #IBelieve that facing that national emergency requires unity.” He wants Americans “across the political spectrum [to] unite around a political program based on the protection of American democracy and American institutions.”

Wittes, writes Tomasky, is “correct about two basic things”:

…One, that this is a national emergency. If I have to spell out why for you, you’re reading the wrong column and should stick to the gossip pages. Trump is a clear and present danger the likes of which we’ve never seen. Two, that the top priority far and away of decent people of all ideologies has to be to confront Trumpism and to stop it.

Tomasky cites the “popular front” against fascism during World War II, which brouigh together such politically-disparate leaders as FDR and Stalin, as well as rank and file liberals, conservatives, socialists and communists, all of whom recognized the urgency of defeating Hitler.

United in that singular objective, they prevailed. The ‘Popular Front’ coalition members didn’t sacrifice any of their core principles, and after stopping Hitler and Mussolini, they resumed their conflicts with each other.

Tomasky adds that Wittes’  “principles, by the way, are bipartisan and unobjectionable,” and they include “Commitments to the First Amendment; to transparent government; to getting to the bottom of Russia; to science and evidence; to no Muslim-bashing, “full stop”; to fighting presidential abuse of power; and more along those lines.” Tomasky urges leaders and “maybe tens of thousands of regular citizens to co-sign on Facebook.”

Yes, there would be problems in mobilizing and sustaining such a diverse coalition. Tomasky calls the roll of some leading conservatives who are already on board with ending Trumpism:

..I look over the past 11 months, and I don’t see that I’ve changed a whit. Instead I see Kristol and George Will popping up on MSNBC, I see Max Boot emerge as one of the most powerful critics of Trumpism around, and I peruse Jennifer Rubin’s columns that with each passing week are reading more and more like Molly Ivins’. Irving Kristol, Bill’s father, famously said that a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality. Today, a liberal is a conservative who’s been trumped by it.

He could have added the Bush family, journailists Michael Gerson, Joe Scarborough and a growing list of other Republican politicians and conservatives, who are fed up and calling for change.

Tomasky’s pitch makes a lot of sense. Such strategic alliances are the only remaining course, since Democrats and moderate Republicans have failed, working separately, to compel Trump and his enablers to restore some basic dignity and decency to our politics. Numerous opinion polls and Trump’s dismal approval ratings indicate that a majority consensus for ending Trumpism has arrived. Now it’s up to patriotic liberals, moderates and conservatives to coalesce into a powerful force that can get that job done.


Metzgar: Social Class and Trump Voters

The following article by Jack Metzgar is cross-posted from Working-Class Perspectives:

Politico’s Michael Kruse visited my hometown earlier this month to get a look at “one of the long-forgotten, woebegone spots in the middle of the country that gave Trump his unexpected victory last fall.”  Kruse concluded that “Johnstown Never Believed Trump Would Help.  They Still Love Him Anyway.”  The story, based on interviews with nine Trump supporters and one man who voted for Hillary Clinton, is part of a stream of articles attempting to explain why Trumpians have remained so loyal to a president who has failed to deliver on any of his campaign promises so far and, for the most part, hasn’t even tried.  Problem is that about the same time as this spate of articles appeared a well-respected poll showed “Most White Workers Souring on Trump.”

This sounds like a potentially important debate, but it never really becomes important because there is such a confusion of categories, often made worse by a lingering white-trash class prejudice that is sometimes used to resolve the confusion.  Different authors are simply looking at different parts of an elephant while thinking they’re seeing the whole thing.

Kruse, for example, is focused on “Trump supporters,” who are often referred to as “Trump’s base” and who appear to be sticking with him come hell or high water.   References to “Trump’s base” usually refer to “working-class whites,” who are white people without bachelor’s degrees and are generally thought to be a reservoir of racist, sexist, and other deplorable attitudes.  But this class language confuses more than it clarifies.  Whites without bachelor’s degrees voted overwhelmingly for Trump, and they are by far the largest group of Trump voters.  But whites with bachelor’s degrees also narrowly voted for Trump over Clinton.  Only 48% of Trump voters were working-class whites, while 38% were middle-class whites (by education), and 13% were nonwhite.

“Trump supporters” or “Trump’s base” are somewhat smaller groups than “Trump voters,” many of whom voted against Hillary rather than for Trump.  But the larger point is that whether voters or supporters, Trumpians are not all whites without bachelor’s degrees – only about one-half of them are.  The identification of Trump with the white working-class is mostly not true.

When Michael Kruse searched out nine people to represent all of Johnstown, he found one retail worker, one retired nurse, two retired teachers, three small business owners, the Johnstown city manager, and a man who would not identify his occupation.  Kruse pays no attention to who does and does not have a bachelor’s degree.  He very sensibly highlights their occupations, not their formal education. That means that Kruse’s interviewees are much more likely to reflect the complex class make-up of Trump’s base than the convenient belief that only un-college-educated white people would fall for a carnival-barker snake-oil salesman like Trump.   In fact, more than 24 million white people with college educations voted for the guy.

While most reports on votes or polling define the working-class by lack of a college education, others define the working class by income (usually households with annual incomes below $50,000). But that definition of class also doesn’t support the idea that Trump won because of the white working class. Whites from households earning less than $50,000 are less likely to vote than other whites, and in 2016 those who did vote did not lopsidedly opt for Trump.

While education, occupation, and income are all reasonable ways to define a person’s social class, each describes a somewhat different group whose voting behavior is significantly different — despite overlap among these three categories.  This generates constant confusion as different commentators make what seem like contradictory claims about the white working class when they are actually focused on somewhat different white working classes.

This is a legitimate intellectual confusion, especially common among well-educated journalists whose higher educations included little or nothing about class in America.  Less legitimate, and much more  false, is the growing willingness of political writers to use an educated/uneducated class binary among whites to distinguish between Trump voters in suburbs whose basic sense of decency can be appealed to and the Trump base which is seen as a hopelessly ignorant stew of economic nationalists who pine not just for lost jobs and economic prospects, but also for the good old days of patriarchy and white supremacy.  The latter group definitely exists and, as Kruse demonstrates, it is not hard to find examples in places like my hometown, but the educated/uneducated binary does not hold, as at least half of Kruse’s sample likely have bachelor’s degrees and some of the weirdest attachments to the man with orange hair seem to reside in white business owners, not workers.

But there are two other problems with contrasting Trump voters from suburbs to Trump supporters from “woebegone spots in the middle of the country” as if they represented a simple educated/uneducated class binary.  First, about two-thirds of adults who live in suburbs do not have bachelor’s degrees, and therefore, would be classified as working class.  The suburban vote in large metropolitan areas is not synonymous with an educated white middle class – and hasn’t been for decades.  Second, and even more elementary, just because you can easily find Trump supporters in woebegone spots doesn’t mean that all white folks in those spots are Trump supporters, as Kruse’s reporting so strongly implies.

Johnstown offers much more interesting fodder for political analysis than its woebegone-ness.   It is in a swing county that in the 21st century has swung from Al Gore to George W. Bush to Barack Obama to Mitt Romney and finally to Trump last year.  As British reporter Gary Younge found in his visit to Johnstown, economic desperation and every kind of decline you can think of accounts for both the area’s swingy-ness and its large number of Trump voters in 2016.  Combining my own impressions with this county-wide voting data, here’s how I’d characterize Cambria County’s citizens:

The largest group among the white working class are non-voters, who either don’t care about politics at all or are disdainful of politicians of all stripes. They simply believe voting makes no difference.  This group is itself complex, ranging from people who keep up with the news and have independent-minded opinions about issues to people who never watch or read much news at all and do not form opinions of their own about current issues.  Among regular voters, there are strong Democrats and strong Republicans, somewhat skewed by race and class, but both groups include people with and without bachelor’s degrees.

But most importantly, Johnstown has swing voters, a group that has been growing larger as conditions in their communities and their lives continue to deteriorate.  This group, along with the Democrats, voted for Obama in 2008, and a sizeable part of it voted for him again in 2012.  But when Donald Trump came to Johnstown and promised to bring back coal mining and steel jobs, there was an enormous swing toward him in 2016.  Given what President Obama had produced – a steady, substantial, but exceedingly slow economic recovery during which their already diminished lives either did not change or got worse – and what Hillary Clinton was half-heartedly promising, the Cambria County swing to Trump had a what-the-hell quality to it that was neither pathological nor irrational.  As a former steelworker who voted for both Obama (twice) and Trump told Gary Younge, “I liked [Obama’s] message of hope, but he didn’t bring any jobs in.”

Trump tapped into a large well of hateful resentments that were simmering in Johnstown before he showed up, resentments that so far as I can tell are no more common in the white working class than in the white middle class.  But if you focus on the swing voters, not the Trump zealots, you have to ask yourself what might swing these voters back to a more progressive politics. I suspect these alternative focuses are applicable across the Rust Belt states.

And this is part of the problem with the way reporters and other analysts focus on the Trump zealots as if they are the whole of the white working-class: they encourage Democrat politicians to aim to win over what they imagine as “traditional Republicans” in “affluent suburbs” – folks they hope will be increasingly disgusted by the character and behavior of our president.  That approach may yield some votes. But this merely anti-Trump focus allows Dems to avoid hammering out a governing vision, message, and program that could really make a difference to voters like many in Johnstown – those who are desperately swinging back and forth in the vain hope that voting in the world’s oldest democracy might make a difference in the lives they get to live.