Dog Whistle Politics: What if Only White People Voted?

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After the 2012 election, Buzzfeed put together a series of electoral maps that showed what the results would have looked like if we didn’t have universal suffrage. A couple of them went viral, including this one, which depicts the election results if only white men voted, which was the case before the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870:

…and this one, which depicts the outcome if only white men and women voted:

Some people looked at these maps and concluded that they proved white America unwilling to vote for a black president, but that conclusion was far too simplistic. The reality is that the Democratic Party has had a structural disadvantage among white voters that is, at least in part, a result of the success of Republicans’ “Southern Strategy” — dog whistle politics. While Obama got 39 percent of the white vote in 2012, in 2008 he grabbed 43 percent which was two points higher than John Kerry’s share in a losing effort in 2004 and just one point less than Al Gore’s share when he won the popular vote in 2000.

Ultimately, race is just a single variable. Just as Democrats struggle with the white vote, Republicans have been burdened with a longstanding gender gap. Fifty-five percent of women voted for Obama in 2012, a point less than he garnered in his first election. Kerry won 51 percent of women voters in 2004 — a big reason he lost the election — and Gore got 55 percent in 2000.

A similar gap exists between married couples (Romney took 56 percent) and singles (62 percent of whom went for Obama in 2012). Church attendance provides another way to slice up the electorate — 59 percent of voters who worship at least once a week favored Romney and 62 percent who never set foot in a church favored Obama. There are similar divides with income and age.

In 2008, Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz put together multiple variables to define the Republican Party’s base, which most observers agree has been shrinking along with various social and demographic changes. According to Abramowitz, the GOP’s most loyal supporters — statistically — are not white people, nor married people, nor those who identify as Christians. Rather, it’s married white people who also identify as Christians.

Just 30 or 40 years ago, this demographic dominated American elections, but split its vote more evenly between the parties. Since then, married white Christians have become far more reliably Republican, but also fewer in number. “Married white Christians now make up less than half of all voters in the United States and less than one-fifth of voters under the age of 30,” wrote Abramowitz.

The declining proportion of married white Christians in the electorate has important political implications because in recent years married white Christians have been among the most loyal supporters of the Republican Party. In American politics today, whether you are a married white Christian is a much stronger predictor of your political preferences than your gender or your class — the two demographic characteristics that dominate much of the debate on contemporary American politics.

This is something to keep in mind when people talk about the “white vote.”

Joshua Holland is a senior digital producer for BillMoyers.com. He’s the author of The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy (and Everything Else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America) (Wiley: 2010), and host of Politics and Reality Radio. Follow him on Twitter or drop him an email at hollandj [at] moyersmedia [dot] com.
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  • Jim

    I think a better predictor of how people will vote is watching state elections.

  • ComradeRutherford

    The Republicans know they are a minority. That’s why they want so badly to start killing their neighbors.

  • Rick

    This topic was covered 12 years ago in “The Emerging Democratic Majority”.

  • Robin

    I’m a married black Christian, and I voted for Obama, both times, because he was the better candidate.

  • Bob

    The GOP won’t run out of gas until they run out of money. They have intimidated or bought most news outlets. Electorial votes and congressional districts should be assigned by voter turn out in national elections. Why should Texas get two or three congressmen because they have a couple of million people that cannot vote.

  • Anonymous

    Teixeira and Judis were really visionary, hunh?

  • christopher mahoney

    The GOP has been building its share of the white vote since 1968. This has compensated for the declining white share of the electorate. Just as the GOP has a real problem with single women, the Democrats have a real problem with white voters. YouGov reports that 50% of white voters “strongly disapprove” of Obama. Some of that may be name-specific, but it is reflective of the ongoing racial polarization of the political parties. Even today, there are more white Democrats than all minorities combined. By playing the race card, the Democrats are losing the white vote. BIll Clinton and Al Gore understood all of this, and Hillary probably does too. But there are powerful forces within the Democratic party–the progressives–who do not seem to understand the fragility of the party’s hold on the white voter. The president’s remarks during the Zimmerman trial, however heart-felt, were deeply resented by white voters.

  • Anonymous

    I’m white & the only reason I didn’t vote for Obama the *first* time was because I wrote in Hillary Clinton (I live in a Democratic state; he was going to win no matter what, but I wanted to make a point). Yes, I voted for him the 2nd time; he was by far the better man. & the better candidate.

  • txlakedude

    GOP run out of money!!! Huh ?
    Their money supporters pay no taxes, so they will always have money.
    When American STOP voting for the candidates money, and start voting the issues, then and only then will the fascistGOP disappear.

  • Katherine

    I am a married white woman, working mother, daughter of immigrants and I have a problem identifying with Republicans. I do not want my children growing up to be distrusting of foreigners, people of color, people of different sexual orientation, basically people of the world. I have no idea the frame of mind it takes to be so fearful of people who are different from you. I say, “Thank God” for the difference, but then again, that’s just me. The people who have hurt me most in my life, look a lot like me, imagine that?

  • http://destroyideas.blogspot.com destroyideas

    This is nonsense. We don’t have to prop up the fragile egos of the privileged race by not talking about race just to hold onto their votes. That’s what the Republicans are doing.

  • buttsjoe05@yahoo.com

    I’ll start out by telling you some of my best friends are black but i never have voted for Obama as you have. Blacks have voted for Democratic at a rate nof 85% to 90& over the last 30 to 40 years and this is the first time a black person has run for President. You claim to be a Christian well President Obama also claims to be a Christian but it bother me by some of the things the President does or says for instants his veiw on Plan Parenthood in recent years Plan Parenthood has added abortion clinics to its services which unfortuately is responsible for thousands of babies to be murdered. Then when President Obama had a meeting with Plan Parenthood recently before he left he says God Bless Plan Parenthood. I to am trying to live a Christian life also but i’ve never read anything in the Bible where God says it alright for someone to kill babies. Although i do feel life is between God and woman. President Obama also backs same sex couples well again the Bible says God says sex should be between marry men and women any other sex relations are immoral.

  • buttsjoe05@yahoo.com

    Yes the Republican Party needs to change and adapt but not the way the Socialist acting Democratic Party has’ like President Obama (my way or the highway attiude) by governing around the US Constitution illegally and also governing around Congress because of Majority Leader Harry( who also has the attiude my way or the highway) Reid. I have read up on the US Constitution and the way i read it the House of Represenatives are responible for legislating bills to be sent to the US Senate where they bring the bills to the floor to debate and if not agree upon, change the part of the bill that’s disagreed on and send the bill back to the House and so on, until both the House and Senate either agree with bill, which if both finally agree with the bill then the bill is to the President where he either signs the bill into law or veto the bill which then the bill is thrown out.
    This is one reason we are having a corrupted federal government governing our country. That’s what the Tea Party is trying to do by getting good candidates with good family values and good ideas elected to send to Washington to represent all American not just one party or the other to help correct all this corruption in our federal government. Where our children and children og future generations has a chance for the America Dream again.

  • buttsjoe05@yahoo.com

    I know President Obama and his regime seems to be governing like communist and both political parties are having their disagreements but Comrade i don’t think its got that bad where they want to kill each other, at least i hope not.

  • Anonymous

    thank god for the decline of the White Christian. maybe after they are a minority, real hope will returned to the rest of us. Dictatorship by the Religious Whites has destroyed this country.

  • Anonymous

    you obviously have no concept of anything but white views. straight white America has no clue what the rest of Americans think or believe. you are not alone and never have been. we have always been here, but unable to get your attention to let you know we matter too. from your statements i gather we still don’t matter.

  • Anonymous

    what i think is really sad is the delusion of the Republican Democratic, left vs right illusion that is America today. to think the Republicans or the Democrats care about anything or anybody but GREEN MONEY, aka Wall St./Corporations is proof of how stupid and easily divided Americans are. Obama has done the best job for the Republicans just like Clinton did.

    but Blacks and Whites only see Republican and Democrats when those or any politicians names are spoken. as i remember from back in the early 70′s, some lady from Iowa said of the R/D divide. “the only difference between the Republicans and Democrats is like the difference between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. I didn’t understand or believe her back then. But, Boy, was she on the money. lol

    Obama has screwed the poor and the Blacks like no Republican ever could. lol and the Republicans can’t stand their best agent of hatred in getting Blacks with their intense hatred of Obama. go figure. shows the REpublicans intense hatred of the”other” blinds them to the “best agent” in getting their most despised enemy, the Black man.

    just watch the “Manchurian Candidate” to see the parallels. lol
    no wonder the Democrats are screwed. with “Democrats” like Obama, Clinton, et al. who needs Republicans to get rid of Social SEcurity, Medicare, infrastructure, public schools, public roads or the rest of society.

  • ComradeRutherford

    First, Obama is a moderate Republican, and no where near being a ‘communist.’

    Second, only the Conservatives are eager to start shooting their neighbors, not ‘both political parties.’

  • Anonymous

    What a load of BS! It’s about time we had the discussion about the continued problems faced by minorities and women in this country. I appreciate the openness, but not the racists reactions from angry white males. Let those who seethe with hatred fly that flag, so we will know their true colors. And as a woman who drives a Ford F-150, I resent the implication.

  • christopher mahoney

    Of course minorities face problems in America. But when whites make up 70-75% of the electorate, a demographic strategy based upon minority grievance cannot prevail except in majority-minority districts. By driving the white working class out of the party, the Democrats have elected to be the minority party, which does:t win elections.

  • Anonymous

    You’re not trying to live a christian life if you are judging others, and trying to force your religious beliefs onto others. There is NOTHING in the bible about abortion, in fact:
    Hosea 13:16
    16 The people of Samaria must bear their guilt,
    because they have rebelled against their God.
    They will fall by the sword;
    their little ones will be dashed to the ground,
    their pregnant women ripped open.
    Yes, your god condoned abortion!
    Also, your comments about sex being between married men and women, are just as dumb. The bible condoned men marrying dozens of women, men having concubines, and selling their daughters into slavery.

  • christopher mahoney

    Not politically, no. Except in the coastal states and cities. Gay nonwhites are not a large demographic and never will be.

  • Jeca

    This is what I don’t get – blaming the government for abortion. How about blaming the man who impregnated the woman who wants the abortion? Planned Parenthood provides a necessary service and if the service goes away, women will turn to back alley abortions. I don’t like abortions either but I wouldn’t presume to tell any woman what decision to make that affects her body.

  • http://destroyideas.blogspot.com destroyideas

    It’s not a “demographic strategy,” it’s justice.

  • http://destroyideas.blogspot.com destroyideas

    No. There really can’t.

  • http://destroyideas.blogspot.com destroyideas

    You’re advocating ignoring the margins, the people who need the government most, just to grab power. That, again, is the Republican strategy. It’s unjust, it’s racist, and it isn’t long lasting with the continued demographic change.

    I may agree with you if you really view Reps and Dems as two wings of the same party who simply target their voters based on racial identity, but the way you’re phrasing it is that Democrats need to ignore the concerns of the minorities just to garner votes.

  • http://destroyideas.blogspot.com destroyideas

    Oh look, it’s another dog whistle with this “Ggd bless Planned Parenthood” myth.

  • http://destroyideas.blogspot.com destroyideas

    The Republican party is the very definition of “my way or the highway.”

  • GregoryC

    Socialist acting Democratic Party? You mean the neo-liberal Democratic party of Clinton-Obama?

  • GregoryC

    I don’t think he’s moderate. I think he’s right wing neo-liberal/neocon Republicrat. The damage he’s done to the Bill of Rights, furthering the surveillance state, expanding wars around the globe, drone murders, kill lists, and trade deals destroying national sovereignty, labor laws, environmental protections, food safety is hardly what I’d define as moderate.

  • Anonymous

    That ignores the so-called “creative class” — highly-educated urban white people who would rather jam a sharp stick in their eye than vote Republican.

  • Anonymous

    God also says it’s an abomination to eat shellfish, and Obama does that too!

  • JonThomas

    Actually, just for reference, not for Christians (Acts 10:9-16; 15:19,20.)

    However, your point still stands. There are plenty of other hypocritical rafters found in the actions of many professed Christians for them to be pointing out the splinters in other people’s eyes.

  • ComradeRutherford

    No disagreement there!

    “The damage he’s done to the Bill of Rights, furthering the surveillance state, expanding wars around the globe, drone murders, kill lists, and trade deals destroying national sovereignty, labor laws, environmental protections, food safety is…”

    … continuing the exact same policies where Bush II left off.

  • JonThomas

    It really is a simpler world when your box doesn’t have windows.

    La di da, la di da.

  • ComradeRutherford

    Yep. I don’t see any lawmakers and figureheads on the ‘left’ openly calling for the mass murder of everyone that disagrees with them…

  • Montaigne Lover

    The dems have won the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 presidential elections, and the republican base is small and getting smaller. The dems do not face any real challenges to national elections in the short to mid-term future.

    Unfortunately, the dems are also dominated by corporate hors, so there will be little economic progress for the 99%.

  • Montaigne Lover

    You know who represents a small, shrinking, regional minority- the Rush Limbaugh rednecks. The very problems you describe the dems as facing are really far more serious and immediate for the republican party.

  • Montaigne Lover

    And what point did you want to make by voting for Hillary? That you REALLY love wall street?

    You should have voted green party.

  • Montaigne Lover

    The instant you label anyone in the dem leadership a socialist, especially the corporate hor Obama, you lose ALL credibility with people capable of thought.

    Take that garbage to the Mark Levin show. It won’t fly in here :)

  • Kb

    I wonder how married non-white Christians vote. If being married and Christian is the leading factor in how these white couples vote, why does it matter whether they are white or not?

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately, our voting options are a) Republican or b) Democratic. We could potentially vote c) some unknown, long-shot candidate, but that would result in either a or b winning anyway. Until there is a viable third option, I will continue to vote for the lesser of two evils which is usually a Democrat.

  • Jonathan Lucas

    You mean white Christians built the strongest, richest nation in the world, walked on the moon, and improved the quality of life for billions?
    Yes, by all means, dismiss and demean them, but to your own detriment.

  • Jonathan Lucas

    Durr hurr those people who don’t agree with me are stupid and uneducated durr hurr

  • Jonathan Lucas

    You seem like an educated person, so I’ll just assume you are spouting that nonsense about shellfish because you choose to ignore what the bible really says, or how Jesus fulfilled the law while morality stayed the same.

  • Jonathan Lucas

    Goes both ways – if a couple waits for impregnation until they’re sure they want to raise kids together, that takes the need for abortion clear out of the picture.
    Also, back alley abortions rose in number after Roe v. Wade.

  • Jonathan Lucas

    God is talking about the terrible things that happen to people with no morals. He’s not condoning it, he’s warning that others will do this to them.

  • asknot

    How smug. At what cost? I guess you must have slept through history class. ‘White Christians’ have killed, tortured and oppressed millions. For a long long time. Native Americans? African Americans? Iraqis? Your moral compass needs some calibration.

  • JonThomas

    Did you intend to sound so rude? Why do so many people see their way towards setting poor examples of conduct?

  • Anonymous

    Democrats have completely abandoned the working class. They leave only race and culture on the table to divide the working class like it has since 1676. What would you expect. We have loud lying Republicans, and completely mute corporate Democrats. That’s what happens in a political vacuum. RFK won the Indiana primary with damn near all the black vote and a huge amount of working class whites. That in one of the most KKK infested states around. There was not a vacuum that year. Then the CIA shot him in the head…

    Of course the 1968 campaign– which had the lowest per cap income average gaps between 1st and second place finishers of any in the 20th century is off limits for the Foundation funded left. Too revealing. So great sites like Glen Fords have to toe the line to pay the rent and say their stay away lines about RFK so nobody looks and sees that the HE WAS COMPLETELY ANNIHILATING THE SOUTHERN STRATEGY AND THEN WAS SHOT IN THE HEAD. If people went there they might start saying “gee those Counterpunch articles, though good, are kind of esoteric and inaccessible for about 80% of the population. Access ramps. Thats what politics is about. Thats why the internet replaced the public sphere.

  • KLZA

    really? by democrat you mean, republican party.. right?

  • KLZA

    i believe you get Obama

  • Anonymous

    Leviticus 11:12.

    Regardless, the Bible was written by anonymous people who thought the sun revolved around the Earth and it has enough contradictory verse that anyone who can’t form a real-world argument can find in it support for any position. Bible’s been the basis of murder and pillage and slavery and colonialism and all manner of horrors.

  • JonThomas

    Don’tcha just love parochialism? “Everyone must be just like I am!”

    I cringe every time, and feel a duty to apologize for those who have used the scriptures (a book meant to teach people how to love) to rationalize their atrocious behavior. [That goes for Hebrew, and Christian Greek scriptures.]

  • Anonymous

    What crap.

    Only white men voted not too many years ago.

    Clearly, they had to vote to share the vote, or they would still be the only one’s with a vote.

    And then to convolute this into the sideways inference, “White people don’t want to vote for a black president” is not only wrong, but insulting. Many, many of us did.

    The logic here doesn’t even rise to sophomoric.

  • Anonymous

    No I mean that today’s Democrats have– in comparison to the Democrats of the New Deal Coalition (sometimes described by historians as btw 1932-80 although this is lil off IMO– have abandoned the working class.

    The Republicans have never abandoned the working class because they never even remotely stood for it.

  • Anonymous

    Great show, but ironically it is not inclusive. Appropriately on Academy Awards day, the theme is like the
    highly nominated film Gosford Park, (inspiration for Downton Abbey)
    which exposed the terrible class based discrimination which used the
    same dog whistles.

    My guess is many many millions of non-minority Americans who are also victims of the libertarian politics since Reagan, are asking ‘what about me’. No pension or benefits, minimum wages, offshoring of jobs, election funding abuse, cuts to entitlements, have affected 80% of the population.

  • Flying Goat

    In Exodus 21:7, God pretty clearly talks about how men should go about selling their daughters.

  • Anonymous

    The Republican’s favorite “dog whistle” is no longer overtly race but rather religion — that man-made power tool fueled by fear and need and greed — racial bigotry is now much more subtle.

  • Anonymous

    I have to upvote you because of that second sentence.
    Both major political parties tend to support legislation that benefits the wealthiest of their constituents, leaving the employee class in particular royally screwed.

  • Anonymous

    Most politicians are still white?

  • Anonymous

    Blue collar workers and other laborers of the employee class will continue to have their economic lives adversely affected as long as impoverished immigrants — especially illegal immigrants — are permitted to be here to compete for lower skilled jobs and affordable housing. The only way to stop the flood of illegals is to go after the employers that hire them in a meaningful way and that is something neither of the two major parties seem willing to do. The GOP “leadership” wants them here for cheap labor but not as voters. The Dems “leadership” wants them and their children as potential voters.

  • Anonymous

    LBJ famously declared that the passing of the civil rights laws lost “the south” (bible belt) to the Republicans for at least a generation. Religion was used as an excuse to divide by race. Now it is being used to divide those that want progress vs. those that want to preserve (“conserve”) the long standing (but now decreasing) status quo — married white Christians “in control”. Those “values voters” will go to the polls in a religious stupor and vote Republican, usually contrary to their own best economic interest, generation after generation as long as their children can be successfully indoctrinated into religious zealotry. When the church was the only acceptable social outlet for miles around and transportation and communication more limited, that was easier. With entertainment and communication media challenging prompting that brainwashing to be questioned, that will become ever more difficult.

  • Anonymous

    To the extent that the GOP has been able to rev up religious zealotry and the hate that goes with it, yes, they have been growing their base. Yes, “hate”: What is more hate filled than the followers of the mass murderer of the Noah’s Ark myth whose believe their god will “rapture” the most favored of those of their own favorite religious zealotry, dump horrific plagues on everyone else, and then lead all those their god can rally to its cause in a global war very literally to kill every man, woman and child on earth that does not worship it — and they believe this is a good thing (they worship this god) and the want it to happen in their lifetime?

  • Anonymous

    That also ignores the fact that the economic reality of the majority has not been favorable impacted by Republican “trickle down” economic policy — too often embraced in varying degrees by Dems as well. That said, too many of those most adversely affected seem unwilling to get registered, become informed and vote.

  • Anonymous

    If the lessons of the Bible actually guided your votes, you’d be aware of the admonition to ‘judge not lest ye be not judged’ AND you’d be more aware of the very real adverse effect of GOP economic policies on ‘the least among us’. I dispute the very premise of this article that seems to be that race is the dominant divide; but while there remain undertones of race, it is not the greater divide. Religious zealotry with regard to one ‘hot button’ issue — abortion — distracting attention from other issues — all but blinding the Christians of the ‘working class’ to the ACTUAL effects of GOP economic policy on the MAJORITY of Americans of all colors is the real divide. Religion is a man-made power tool fueled by fear and need and greed; the GOP has learned to use it very well.

  • Anonymous

    I seem to recall that it is also considered an abomination to wear clothing of more than one fabric, but Republican Christians are really good at picking and choosing which rules from their Bibles they follow.

  • Anonymous

    While the number of abortions rose, they became much safer for the woman. The “back alley” kind that were once the only option too often precluded future successful pregnancy.
    As to pregnancy, if any man does not trust a woman to decide the fruit of his loins, then he should not give it to her — and he should never plant a seed when he is unwilling to accept responsibility.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, thankfully, the greater variety of sources of information for younger people now make it harder to brainwash them than it was back when the local church was pretty much the only acceptable social outlet. Wanting to slow down the “enlightenment” of the next generation is one reason the “right” w*ngnut$ wants religion (Creationism) in public schools and vouchers for sending the next generation of Republicans to religious schools.

  • Anonymous

    You are not representing “all” Americans when you seek to deny individual liberty to women when it comes to their making their own decisions with regard to medical and reproductive decisions. You are not representing “all” Americans when you seek to deny equal right under law to people who chose a lifestyle different from the religious right-wing-nut zealots.

  • Anonymous

    Applause. I am not an Obama fan — he lost much credibility when he followed the Bush lead and bailed out the banks yet again w/o either adverse consequences to the bankers or protections for consumers against future collapse and yet again when he followed the Bush lead in foreign and military and intelligence/security policy in far too many ways, however, calling him names or applying labels he has publically rejected — political or religious — is just hate politics.

  • Anonymous

    Only die hard capitalist seem to be able to get elected.

  • Anonymous

    …with regard to not all but certainly with regard to all too many issues, yes.

  • ComradeRutherford

    “Only white men voted not too many years ago.”

    Less than 100!

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  • Gary M Washburn

    This page seems to be fading in interest, but one last point is important to make: Racism killed the new deal. It was used to transform the context from one that made white males more like Onslow to one that made them more like Archie Bunker. It is perverse logic to suppose the change to be the act of the side that lost out, so far.

  • Anonymous

    You’ve completely confused what liberian politics are.

  • Anonymous

    My
    comment supports yours below on feeling insulted or left out. I quite agree that the professor’s perspective is divisive.

    How am I
    wrong the libertarianism. Bill moyers has had many shows exposing the
    winner take all approach.

  • Anonymous

    We haven’t had any libertarian politics, since Reagan or before.

  • Anonymous

    It seems to me Bill Moyers has demonstrated the great impact of libertarians. I think the usual position is that people are not talking about civil libertarians who focus on human rights. They are talking about the adoration of Ayn Rand, the tax revolt, the increase in the income gap, the narcissitic pay rates for ceos, the election funding rules which favour the rich and corporations, the emerging plutocracy, the tuition rates that ordinary students can not afford, historically low minimum wages (inflation adjusted) making serfs out of many people, free trade rules which only benefit the rich and and corporations, the absence of a universal health care system, …

    Buffett said that there has been class warfare and his class won.

    Check out this item on networth in Canada in the link below. Table 3 shows how marginal the finances are for a very significant segment of the population. Yet Prime Minister Harper, an admitted libertarian (like Paul Ryan, like Rand Paul and his father) chose to make cuts to the old age benefits so he can continue to cut taxes.

    http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/140225/dq140225b-eng.pdf

  • Anonymous

    Moyers is hardly a friend of libertarians, nor is he the one who should create the definition of libertarian.