Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Turnout turnout turnout

Judge Moore heading into the sunset on a horse that clearly doesn't like him very much, via Deadspin.

My favorite statistic from yesterday's Alabama Senate election is this, as reported in the Washington Post:
 “These swings can be seen in counties majority white and black, Republican and Democrat. And that means it couldn’t have just been a surge in African American turnout, or just rural Trump voters staying home, or just Republicans crossing over to vote for Jones. Jones’ campaign was able to achieve a combination of the three that drove him to victory. Despite it being an off-year special election in December, Jones got 92 percent of Hillary Clinton’s vote total. Moore just got 49 percent of Trump’s.” 
The authorities were expecting a 25% turnout, meaning really big for an out-of-season race, and instead they got 40%, but that unexpected crowd was not symmetrical. Half of Trump's voters couldn't bring themselves to vote for Moore, but nearly all of Clinton's voters came out for Jones.

In that way the horrible stories of Moore's prolonged and at best creepy, at worst criminal bachelor years (À l'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs!) were only one factor, and likely not the most important one—Republican turnout relatively depressed, but not necessarily more depressed than they would have been in a normal, boring, suspense-free special election, and not necessarily because of the scandal any more than because of the expected off-year lack of interest in a candidate most of them hadn't liked that much in the first place (Moore had won the primary runoff against Luther Strange in a turnout of around 12%, meaning the vast majority were overwhelmingly indifferent and the nomination was captured by a very small number of fanatics.) More important, it looks like, was the enthusiasm of black voters and mothers and Millennials of all races, cajoled into voting by the efforts of the DNC
and heroic efforts of NAACP and just the general wonderfulness of black women in this season. All honor to all those and the work they did to produce this surprising, happy outcome.

Monsignor Douthat ("As Goes Moore, So Goes Trumpism") has another opinion, of course, that the Jones election is a repudiation of Barack Obama. No, not exactly, but that's pretty much what he means:

In one of the strange rhymes that history favors, nearly eight years after Barack Obama’s Democrats managed the extraordinary feat of losing a senate race in Massachusetts, Donald Trump’s Republicans have matched the feat by losing a senate seat in Alabama. Roy Moore and Martha Coakley don’t really have a lot in common personally, but their respective defeats have one essential similarity. They are both stark repudiations of a first-term president, foreshadowing a larger repudiation soon to come.
What was repudiated in Massachusetts in early 2010 was a specific policy course: The Obama White House’s pursuit of a sweeping and complex health care bill in the teeth of an enormous recession, which unsettled voters who wanted hope and change only so long as the latter didn’t affect their health-insurance premiums. The fact that Coakley was a terrible candidate made it easier for Scott Brown to torpedo her, but the backlash against Obamacare, the feeling that a liberal president had turned too soon from seeking growth to seeking redistribution, was an essential element in her defeat.
It's really unlikely that Massachusetts voters were deeply unsettled by the prospect of a federal health care bill practically the same as the one they'd been living with since 2006, which was already reasonably popular and becoming more so. And Obama wasn't in any case "repudiated" in Massachusetts in 2010, where his approval rating was still upwards of 55%, his highest rating in all but five states (Trump was at 49% approval this past November, where he's now less popular than—wait for it—Barack Obama). As Frank Rich wrote at the time,
It was not a referendum on Barack Obama, who in every poll remains one of the most popular politicians in America. It was not a rejection of universal health care, which Massachusetts mandated (with Scott Brown’s State Senate vote) in 2006. It was not a harbinger of a resurgent G.O.P., whose numbers remain in the toilet. Brown had the good sense not to identify himself as a Republican in either his campaign advertising or his victory speech.
 (Not that the GOP wasn't about in fact to resurge, in the November congressional elections, but that had no relationship to their standing in Massachusetts, where Democrats swept all 10 House seats and every single statewide office in November.) Ross has committed here one of the derpiest parallels in pundit history.

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