Super Tuesday Breakdown: Whose 21st Century America?

UPDATE: This post voices my distaste (born of similar experience) for the Obama energy more eloquently than I think I’ve been able to do here. 

You’d never know that Clinton performed well last night, and pulled off some important victories, from the way the media has proclaimed last night as Obama’s night to shine. 

Blue Mass Group suggests giving credit where credit is due to Clinton but then doesn’t bother to do so.  At Rachel’s Tavern, atlasien decides that Latinos and Asians must be more conservative (as in risk averse, and of a choice between that and racist) to vote for Clinton 2-to-1 and 3-to-1, respectively, rather than because they genuinely prefer her as a candidate.  While there’s certainly some truth to all of this interpretation, the fact is that there’s very little in the way of positive critique of Clinton’s culminating performance last night.  Sigh.  Par for the course.

DnA over at Too Sense, some of whose posts I enjoy even though he seems like a Hillary Hater, points out that Obama won in whiter, more rural states.  I took a look at 20 of the 22 states split between Clinton and Obama last night (I set aside Missouri – despite it’s bellweather significance – and New Mexico given how close the outcomes were).  Of the 20 states, Obama won 12, and Clinton won 8.  Keeping in mind the important consideration that race and class influence individual access to and exercise of the vote, what’s interesting is the demographic breakdown of those states. 

The U.S. is about two-thirds white non-hispanic, according to 2006 census data; median household income is ~$44k.  Last night, two-thirds of the states up for grabs were whiter than the national average, and just over 50% of them have higher median incomes that the U.S. overall.  Obama won 70% and two-thirds of these whiter and wealthier states, respectively.  

Clinton, in contrast, won three-quarters of those with higher poverty rates (13% is the national average).   She also won 80% of states with larger foreign-born populations (11% is national average), and two-thirds with larger Latino, Asian, and other ethnic populations. 

Each candidate took four of the eight states with higher than average black populations (13% is the national average). 

DnA is right when he says that more diversity makes for a tougher state for Obama – and I’d point out that such diversity is along ethno-racial and class lines.  For all Obama’s talk of unity and forward-marching on into the future, Clinton is the candidate who prevailed in the 21st century U.S. – a place of demonstrable ethnic diversity and economic inequality.  All the privileged chatter of the affluent and/or young media distorts this uncomfortable reality. 

I’ll leave you with this anecdote: During my orientation at MIT, one of the white, male Professors (who also runs his own practice) joked about how as Cambridge professors succeed, they move further away from Boston through the Northwest affluent suburbs until they reach Nirvana.  We twittered. 

That path went for Obama last night, along with the affluent ends of the Cape and Islands, the NY-populated Berkshires and Vermont edges, and suburban wealth pockets in the North and South Shores.  Obama also took Boston, with its demographic mix of college students, affluent homeowners, and the majority of Massachusett’s black residents. 

What’s interesting – and contradictory to the rest of this post – is that Boston is a majority-minority city, and Hizzonah’s Clinton-machine did not bring her victory.  I’m looking forward to seeing how voting patterns broke down within regions according to cultural categories such as ethnicity, class, and, of course, gender. 


5 Responses to “Super Tuesday Breakdown: Whose 21st Century America?”

  1. February 6, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Hrm … Clinton prevailed in places with greater diversity? And Obama is the candidate of rich white folk? Why did he win SC, Georgia, Alabama et al so convincingly? And Boston, as you point out, is quite diverse. Doesn’t that undercut your point? Is it an island of whiteskin privilege, or not?

    I don’t know. I find this tendentious breakdown of who voted for whom to be really arid. Who’s to say what “21st century America” is? What’s that supposed to mean? It just doesn’t explain much, and it doesn’t give any sense of people’s motivations except with a huge dollop of unwarranted inference.

  2. 2 donna darko
    February 6, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Hello, via AmericaBlog today,

    “Among women, Clinton rolled to double-digit victories in five of the seven states. The numbers in individual states were eye-popping — Clinton did 27 points better among women than men in Massachusetts, 26 points better in California and 20 points better in New Jersey.”

  3. 3 donna darko
    February 6, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Don’t know what happened there, sorry.

  4. February 6, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    “Rich white folk” and a majority of African-Americans. I concur that using census data allows only broad generalizations, but I don’t find myself particularly out on a limb here compared to all the other morning-after quarterbacking going on.

    My point, made here and in other blogs that I’ve linked to (not sure if you bothered to click through any of them), is that Obama’s *coalition* runs into trouble in states with deeper diversity than the traditional white-black color line we know so well in this country. I stand by it.

    Also, if you look at this breakdown of how Boston’s votes went, you’ll see support for my claims:


  5. February 7, 2008 at 12:11 am

    I also believe the “21st century” – and moving forward into it – is a strong theme of the Obama campaign. Furthermore, most research related to demography, inequality, race/ethnicity, migration, etc., points to the dramatic diversity of the U.S. that has flourished in the last half of the 20th century. The ethnic and class diversity that we live with NOW is qualitatively different from past waves of immigration based on where immigrants are migrating from (Central and South America and Asia, for instance, versus Europe at the turn of the 20th century). Furthermore, we’re at a period of income inequality that we have not seen in almost 80 years, we’re seeing higher absolute numbers of people living in poverty in the suburbs for the first time ever, and new migration patterns of ethnic minorities spreading out around the U.S.

    This notion of a new century, a new time, a new period of political leadership, is being raised repeatedly in this Campaign, and particularly by the “change” candidate (Obama). It’s accurate to say we live in a new time – and I stand by my point that his coalition is the less representative of contemporary demographic patterns as I’ve laid them out here.

    Finally, it’s obviously beyond the scope of my blog and this post to aggregate voter motivations. I’m just describing patterns that appear in the voting results.

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