Our New Reality TV President

One of the more intriguing facts to emerge from Tuesday’s vote is that Donald Trump won a greater share of black and Hispanic votes than Mitt Romney.

Chew on that a little. A man widely denounced as a racist (and not totally without basis) who launched his campaign with disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants should have completely delivered black and Hispanic votes to Hillary Clinton. Certainly, I would have expected them to be less inclined to vote for him than the moderate, innocuous Mitt Romney.

Part of the answer is that having Barack Obama on the ballot was a unique circumstance. It’s not a mystery that black voters were going to be more motivated to turn out for the first black president than for Hillary Clinton. The prospect of voting for the first female president was always going to be less powerful. The female vote has never split along party lines as sharply as the minority vote. Age is more important: young, single women go sharply for the Democrats, but married women tend to lean Republican.

Notice that a lot of what we’re talking about is effects on the margin: 27% of the Hispanic vote versus 29%. But you add those margins up, against a really weak candidate, and Trump wins.

I think what a lot of us underestimated is the degree to which Trump’s populist appeal overwhelmed the actual campaign issues—and especially the extent to which he appealed, not just to economic populism, but to cultural populism.

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