America's Dumbest Voters

As the Prospect’s Jamelle Bouie noted earlier today, the most ludicrous ad of the election cycle has to be the latest from the conservative super PAC, Empower Citizens Network, that tries to sway African American voters to the GOP by pointing out that Abraham Lincoln was a member of the party. But that’s not all! Republicans also founded the NAACP, the ad informs us, and they voted for the Civil Rights Act. So what if there’s been nothing to recommend the party to black voters since 1964? Let history be your guide, folks! Republicans are forever grumbling about how African Americans form an unthinking Democratic bloc—if they’re not just plain insulting them, like Congressman Allen West does, by saying they’re enslaved on the “Democratic plantation.” But as Jamelle notes, “the fact of the matter is that blacks are well aware of their political and economic interests,” and they vote accordingly.

If only the same could be said of non-wealthy whites.

White people have a long, rich tradition of being America’s dumbest voters—especially since the 1960s—and on Tuesday, we’ll find out just how dumb, just how willing to vote against their own economic well-being, they are this year. President Obama’s victory in 2008 was largely due to his success in narrowing the Republicans’ victory margin among whites, to “just” 12 percent. Thanks in part, no doubt, to the well-orchestrated and racially driven backlash against the first black president—see: Fox News, Tea Party, birthers, GOP presidential candidates—it’s been a tougher slog this year. The most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Obama leading among blacks 94-5, Hispanics 69-29, and losing the white vote 39-57.

The 2008 electorate was 76 percent white; if it’s much the same this year, or if Hispanics vote in higher numbers (as rising registration suggests they will), Obama may have scrounged up barely enough white support to squeak by. Fortunately, in swing states the numbers are better—and the key to Obama’s victory could ultimately be his campaign’s ferocious populist assault on Mitt Romney in Ohio, which appears to have swayed a sufficient number of working-class whites to the Democratic side.

The long-term happy news, of course, is that demographic changes are gradually undermining the power of America’s dumbest voters. That also means, however, that the new conservative political project of coming decades will be concocting ways to dumb down everyone else.

So They Say

"I may be the only person in America, but I am far more enthusiastic about President Obama this time than I was four years ago.”

Bill Clinton, campaigning for Obama in Lake Worth, Florida 

Daily Meme: Potent Quotables

  • The presidential campaign is drawing closer to its denouement, and reporters and politicians alike have descended upon swing states hoping to sweep up every undecided voter for votes or quotes. Here are some of this week's Diner Dash: Swing State Edition gems.
  • Wayne Potter, Ohio: “He’s got all the black vote, probably most of the Hispanic vote, and apparently the women are primarily in favor of him. By the time you add all that up, it’s a very uphill battle for a white guy. Eventually, the U.S. will be a second-rate power, but I’ll be dead and gone when that happens.” 
  • Terry Sperry, Ohio, on the endless political mailers: "I’m very annoyed and aggravated by the volume. It goes right in recycle."
  • Heather Brimacombe, Wisconsin: “The folks who work the system, didn’t go to school, stay on food stamps—I’m expected to pull the weight for them? No, that doesn’t make sense."
  • Karen-Ann Bauserman, Virginia: "I think it's going to go red. Granted, a lot of the northern part of the state is blue ... they're either on welfare or working in the government, but down here, with the farmers, in the dirt, no. I'm a Beckian raised on Rush. I live by Stutistics. You know what I mean? Not statistics, Stutistics."
  • John Engle, Ohio: “You can turn off the television. You don’t have to read the paper. You can turn off the radio. But the phone rings. You don’t know who it’s from. It could be your mother. So you answer it."
  • Maggie Neale, Virginia: "Well, my husband would roll over in the grave if he heard this … actually he’s up on the shelf so maybe he’d explode. But I’m going to vote for Mr. Obama."

What We're Writing

  • Patrick Caldwell reports on how Tammy Baldwin has apparently stemmed the right-wing tide in Wisconsin. 
  • Abby Rapoport gives us the latest bad news from Ohio—thousands of mail-in ballots being wrongly rejected. 

What We're Reading

  • Can't decide which Obama conspiracy is the one for you? Don't worry, Mother Jones has a handy dandy chart.
  • Did your sports team win this year? Chances are you'll vote for Obama.
  • Ryan Reilly reports that a new Republican super PAC formed just weeks ago dumped a cool million into the Montana and North Dakota senate races.
  • Why we need math to determine that people whose favorite movie is either Super Troopers or Dumb and Dumber are unlikely to vote remains to be seen.
  • Slate just released its last Political Kombat of the campaign, in which Obama is almost felled by an attack of Josh Romney staring.
  • NPR maps out just how much more bloated the political ad market is in swing states. 
  • More people voted in the 2012 American Idol finale than in the 2008 presidential election, more proof that the final presidential debate should have been a sing-off moderated by Paula Abdul. 
  • McSweeney's imagines what talking points GOP strategists must be handing down to their candidates concerning how to not mention rape, ever.

Poll of the Day

As the Romney campaign makes a last-ditch play for Pennsylvania, polls show the race has tightened there—but not likely enough for the Republicans to make hay. The Real Clear Politics average shows Obama leading by 4.6 percent in the state, which is about half the lead he held at the beginning of October.

For more polling information, go to the Prospect’s 2012 election map.


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