Making Sense of This

Thinking over this very stunning and bleak night, the best summation I’ve seen is from Nate Cohn of the Times who said this: “How to think about this election: white working class voters just decided to vote like a minority group. They’re >40% of the electorate.” ‘Like a minority’ might strike some people as a bit off. But I know what he means. And I think he’s right: non-college educated whites thinking of themselves as cut off from the centers of power and needing to vote as a group to secure its political and social interests.

Another way of thinking about this is that this is what white nationalism means. Set aside for a moment your association of white nationalism and racism.This is a politics driven by white identity, with white identity, especially among non-college educated white voters, as the organizing force of the community’s politics. That may only be making explicit what was implicit or secondary. But it’s a big deal.

There’s all sorts of things to think about here – regardless of who wins. But I do not think we can avoid the conclusion that there was a major polling failure here. And a polling failure isn’t simply a technical matter. It means either that something significant has changed or that there was something about the country, its politics, cultural trajectory that we missed.

Obviously elections come down to just a few percentages points in either direction. As I noted earlier, I still think it’s likely that Clinton will win the popular vote even if Trump wins. So it’s not like it’s a radically different country. The differences are relatively small. But this is more than a technical failure, more than a problem with the algorithm.

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