NY Mag: David Shor’s (Updated) 2020 Autopsy and 2022 Forecast

I first heard about David Shor when he was cancelled last summer for making the highly controversial observation at the time that mob violence could backfire and hurt the Democrats. He was accused on Twitter of “concern trolling for the purposes of increasing democratic turnout.”

New York Magazine:

“In the United States, every season is campaign season. Four months after America last went to the polls, Democrats are still refining their autopsies of the 2020 race and already governing with an eye toward the 2022 midterms. Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, Republicans are trying to figure out just how firm Donald Trump’s grip on their party really is — and debating whether that grip should be stronger or weaker. 

To gain some insight into these matters, Intelligencer turned to our favorite socialist proponent of ruthlessly poll-driven campaigning, David Shor. A veteran of the 2012 Obama campaign, Shor is currently head of data science at OpenLabs, a progressive nonprofit. We spoke with him last week about how his analysis of the 2020 election has changed since November, what Democrats need to do to keep Congress after 2022, and why he thinks the Trump era was great for the Republican Party (in strictly electoral terms). …

David Shor: At the subgroup level, Democrats gained somewhere between half a percent to one percent among non-college whites and roughly 7 percent among white college graduates (which is kind of crazy). Our support among African Americans declined by something like one to 2 percent. And then Hispanic support dropped by 8 to 9 percent. The jury is still out on Asian Americans. We’re waiting on data from California before we say anything. But there’s evidence that there was something like a 5 percent decline in Asian American support for Democrats, likely with a lot of variance among subgroups. There were really big declines in Vietnamese areas, for example. Anyway, one implication of these shifts is that education polarization went up and racial polarization went down.

NY Mag: In other words, a voter’s level of educational attainment — whether they had a college degree — became more predictive of which party they voted for in 2020 than it had been in 2016, while a voter’s racial identity became less predictive?

Yeah. White voters as a whole trended toward the Democratic Party, and nonwhite voters trended away from us. So we’re now somewhere between 2004 and 2008 in terms of racial polarization. Which is interesting. I don’t think a lot of people expected Donald Trump’s GOP to have a much more diverse support base than Mitt Romney’s did in 2012. But that’s what happened. …

David Shor: This lines up pretty well with trends we saw during the campaign. In the summer, following the emergence of “defund the police” as a nationally salient issue, support for Biden among Hispanic voters declined. So I think you can tell this microstory: We raised the salience of an ideologically charged issue that millions of nonwhite voters disagreed with us on. And then, as a result, these conservative Hispanic voters who’d been voting for us despite their ideological inclinations started voting more like conservative whites. …

David Shor: … So as Democrats have traded non-college-educated voters for college-educated ones, white liberals’ share of voice and clout in the Democratic Party has gone up. And since white voters are sorting on ideology more than nonwhite voters, we’ve ended up in a situation where white liberals are more left wing than Black and Hispanic Democrats on pretty much every issue: taxes, health care, policing, and even on racial issues or various measures of “racial resentment.” So as white liberals increasingly define the party’s image and messaging, that’s going to turn off nonwhite conservative Democrats and push them against us. …

David Shor: Imagine Hillary Clinton had run against Marco Rubio in 2016. Rubio is a less toxic figure to the public as a whole, so let’s say he performed as a generic Republican would have been expected to, and Hillary Clinton’s share of the two-party vote fell to 49.6 percent. If she had maintained Obama’s coalition — if her 49.6 percent had the same ratio of college-to-non-college-educated voters as Obama had in 2012 — she would have won that election. And then, if you look at the implications that would have had down-ballot, especially in the Senate, Republicans would have been a lot worse off with a narrow majority coalition — that had a Romney-esque split between college and non-college voters — than they were with the Trump coalition.

So I think the Trump era has been very good for the Republican Party, even if they now, momentarily, have to accept this very, very, very thin Democratic trifecta. Because if these coalition changes are durable, the GOP has very rosy long-term prospects for dominating America’s federal institutions.

The question is: Can they get all of the good parts of Trumpism without the bad parts? And I don’t know the answer to that question. But when I look at the 2020 election, I see that we ran against the most unpopular Republican ever to run for president — and we ran literally the most popular figure in our party whose last name is not Obama — and we only narrowly won the Electoral College. If Biden had done 0.3 percent worse, then Donald Trump would have won reelection with just 48 percent of the two-party vote. We can’t control what Trump or Republicans do. But we can add states, we can ban partisan redistricting, and we can elevate issues that appeal to both college-educated liberals and a lot of working-class “conservatives.” If we don’t, things could get very bleak, very fast.”

This is very, very interesting.

In the 2012 election, college educated voters were more evenly distributed between the two parties. The PMC ratio in the GOP was higher.

In the 2020 election, college educated voters went for Neoliberal Joe and non-college voters went for Trump. The PMC ratio in the GOP was much lower.

Trump has decreased racial polarization while increasing education polarization and that trend is actually great for Republicans because blue collar voters outnumber white collar voters.

Would Trump have lost if he hadn’t bungled COVID so badly?

Would Trump have lost if he had hadn’t appeased the True Cons wing of the GOP which retains institutional power in spite of being demographically eclipsed?

Would Trump have lost if he hadn’t been so hamstrung by the gerontocracy in Congress and the antiquated and unpopular conservative policy agenda on economics?

Would another candidate running on Trumpism without the rough edges like Trump has with women have won the 2020 election? The CPAC poll clearly showed that Trumpism was more popular than Trump.

According to David Shor, Whites are ideologically polarized with White liberals aligned with the Democratic Party and White conservatives aligned with the Republican Party. Non-White voters are not ideologically polarized. Lots of black, Asian and Hispanic conservatives vote for the Democrats.

As White liberal professionals become more powerful inside the Democratic Party which is being gentrified due to the influx of Republican establishment voters, they are emphasizing their woke, modernist and cosmopolitan values (i.e., “Abolish ICE” or “Defund the Police” or “socialism” or topple statues or cancel Dr. Seuss for offending spoiled brats), which is making non-White conservatives who vote Democrat less and less comfortable and pushing them toward the Republicans. By becoming the party of cosmopolitan, highly educated coastal elites and professionals who live in wealthy suburbs, the Democrats are also at a massive disadvantage in the state legislatures, the Senate and Electoral College.

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  1. …we ran against the most unpopular Republican ever to run for president — and we ran literally the most popular figure in our party whose last name is not Obama

    Both are dubious claims.

  2. So this Shor guy just ignores what is really going on? So he thinks whites are going to vote for Republicans, who basically don’t a damn about us, and are more focused on giving rights and money to nonwhites. Dream on.

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