Once More, With Feeling: A Vote’s a Vote

If you happen to follow me on Twitter (@ed_kilgore), you may have noticed I’ve gotten into an elaborate discussion with Nate Cohn and others over Nate’s piece today at The Update about the defection of white southerners to the GOP. As I noted in an earlier post, levels of white support for Democratic presidential candidates in the South vary quite a bit state-by-state. Nate and other commentators don’t think that’s remotely as significant as the overall decline in white southern Democratic voting, and maybe they are right in terms of prospects for Democratic majorities in the Deep South any time in the near future.

But as regular readers know, I’m a bit obsessive in insisting that “a vote’s a vote,” and votes in demographic categories a given party is “losing” are just as important as those in categories it is “winning.” It matters a great deal if Democrats have a voting base in a given state of 25% of the white vote as opposed to 10%, just as it matters exactly how poorly Republicans do with, say, Latinos. So instead of just dismissing southern white voters as “lost,” Democrat would be smart to figure out what they have and what they need, in combination with nonwhite voters, to create winning coalitions in any given state. Some they won’t have a chance of winning in presidential elections any time in the foreseeable future; some are more promising. But in my experience, overgeneralization about voting trends is more dangerous than too much precision.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.