After Romney lost to Obama in 2012—gathering more votes than this year’s popular vote loser Donald Trump or popular vote winner Hilary Clinton—the Republican Party held an “autopsy” in which they decided they would never win without finding a way to attract the Hispanic vote which Romney lost by a two-thirds margin. Donald Trump didn’t get the memo apparently, since his campaign executed the exact opposite of the autopsy’s prescriptions; it specifically targeted Hispanics as objects of attack. He lost the Hispanic vote by about a two-thirds margin. Now that Trump has come out on top, the RNC has no doubt tossed its autopsy into the ash bin of history. Maybe they’re right. There may not be any such thing as an Hispanic vote. Hispanics are no more united by language than non-Hispanic whites. They come from many different countries with different political traditions. They live lives as varied as any other ethnic group. Was there an Italian vote? Or an Irish vote? Of course not, even though those groups were as subject to prejudice and ostracism as Hispanics are now. (There were, of course, Irish, Italian, Polish, etc. neighborhoods which could be canvassed and rallied, but as neighborhoods, not ethnicities.)
Besides, the Hispanic vote did not turn out any larger for Clinton than it had for Obama. Hispanics didn’t turn the tide. Maybe they never will. (Goodbye Texas.)
But non-Hispanic white people (who I will from here on call “white people” to save time. Anglos?) didn’t turn out either. There was some talk that Trump had rallied the angry white men of the American heartland. No. He more votes than Romney but not much more. I often wondered where these “missing voters” were that pundits warned about. If the racist angry whites hadn’t turned out in full force against an actual black man running for President in 2008 (when McCain got 59,948,323 votes, fewer even than Romney), why would they come out of the woodwork for a narcissistic thousand-aire because they hated Mexicans?
They didn’t. The real story of the 2012 election is how many fewer Democrats turned out for Hillary. The Republicans must have known this in their hearts. They never made so much as a head fake to get Hispanic votes, but they worked like busy bees in the state houses—which they control through the Great Gerrymander of 2010—to suppress votes. Mostly they sought to suppress African-American votes, since there is a long history of doing this in the South. But the Trump campaign brought some innovation to the suppression arena by weaponizing the FBI investigation process—Rudy Guiuliani boasted about a surprise coming from the FBI in the last weeks of the election—and the meddling of a foreign government—Donald Trump invited the Russians to hack Hillary’s emails and they did and admitted it.
So it comes down to turnout. But didn’t Hillary have the most sophisticated turnout machine in history while Donald Trump had none? Yes, but you can’t turn out people who don’t want to vote. And that’s always been the Democrats’ problem. The Republicans are maxed out. If they can’t get more than 60 million people out for either a war hero or a demagogue, they can’t get more than 60 million people. There are no hidden voters.
So it’s the Democrats who needed the autopsy all along. They need a message that will get people to the poles—and they have one. Fight inequality. That was what Roosevelt got going in the thirties and it held fast until the nineties. Time to bring it back.
Where have you gone Bernie Sanders?