September 30, 2019

How ethnicity and class stopped Bernie in '16 and '20; Who he needs to win in '24

In a highly complex economy and multiethnic empire like America, material resources will flow not only through a class hierarchy (from owners to managers to workers), but through ethnic patronage networks. Who is at the head of such patronage networks is less relevant than the fact that the recipients are chosen based on ethnic group membership, and are expected to provide political support to the party that heads the network.

That could be old-fashioned machine politics, which relies on low-status drones to show up to the polls on the appointed day, in return for local leaders making sure their drones do not starve or go homeless. But it could also be the selection of a "talented tenth" among the protected ethnic group, who aim to join the elite class through having seats reserved for them at the upper-status table.

Universal populist or socialist outcomes are threatened by both aspects of this system, which means-tests its rewards. In the class dimension, are you an owner or a manager / professional? If so, here are your goodies; if you're a lowly worker, go fend for yourself. In the ethnic dimension, are you a member of a protected ethnic group? If so, here are your goodies; if you're from some other group, go fend for yourself.

Bernie Sanders and his most ardent supporters have been trying to overturn the prevailing system in favor of a universal populist system. But they lost their Democrat primary last time, and are shaping up to face even bigger losses this time. What were the relative contributions of class and ethnic forces to his movement's undoing, and how could they recover for 2024?

We'll start with the 2016 primary, when things were simple because there were only two candidates, Hillary and Bernie. If class were the stronger force, then the elite voters would tend to favor one candidate, and ordinary voters the other. If ethnicity were stronger, members of certain ethnic groups (those protected by the machine) would favor one candidate (the boss), and members of other groups (those not protected by the machine) would favor the other (the reformer).

It may have been forgotten by now, but the 2016 primary was mainly split along ethnic rather than class lines. This showed up in the various exit polls, but to get a more reliable and large-sample-size overview, we turn to the American National Election Survey. As part of their 2016 survey, they asked respondents whether they voted in the primary, and if so for whom, as well as a battery of demographic and opinion questions.

Since the main ethnic split is non-Hispanic white vs. everyone else, that's the one used below. For class, the most reliable signal of aspiring to join the elite class is getting a college degree.

This was Bernie's 2016 support in % by ethnicity and class:

If class were stronger, the degree column would be similar, and the no degree column would be similar. If ethnicity were stronger, the white row would be similar, and the non-white row would be similar. Lo and behold, ethnicity trumped class -- by a lot. Non-whites only gave Bernie around 30% -- and that was true for both working-class and elite minorities. Whites gave Bernie just under 50% -- again, regardless of whether they were working-class or elite.

To show how much greater the effect of ethnicity was, relative to class, the following chart shows how unified or divided the ethnic and class groups were. The two bars on the left show class differences within each ethnic group, while the two bars on the right show the ethnic differences within each class. The differences are expressed so that positive numbers reflect Bernie's typical support base -- whites and the working class. Click to enlarge.

The two class difference bars are small in size, compared to the two ethnic difference bars. Each class difference was small -- only 4 points. Each ethnic difference was large -- 22 and 14 points.

The left-most bar being negative means that it went against the prediction from Bernie's overall performance -- you'd think that, even if he lost minorities, he still would've been more popular among those without a degree than those with a degree. And yet he was slightly more popular with elite minorities than with working-class minorities.

I interpret that to reflect the elite minorities relying somewhat less on the machine politics to avoid starvation and homelessness -- if they have a college degree, that's not a real concern. That gives them a little more freedom to shop around, although they are still primarily concerned with patronage for protected ethnicities (reserved elite seats for the talented tenth).

Notice that the ethnic difference was larger among the working class than the elite class. Again I take that to reflect reliance on patronage. Working-class whites are left out on the stoop, as far as machine politics or elite promotion goes, while working-class minorities at least get the protection of the machine in exchange for their votes. Elite members of either ethnicity aren't so reliant on the machine for basic survival, so they won't be quite so polarized by the campaign between the machine vs. the reformer.

In sum, Bernie lost a battle over ethnicity -- he did not motivate enough white people of either class to turn out, and he did not demoralize the minorities on his enemy's side into staying home. Of course, a successful strategy would not have referred directly to ethnicity, but the reformist anti-machine pitch would have struck an ethnic chord nonetheless, since it's mainly minorities who are plugged into the machine, or have elite seats reserved for their group.

"We can't allow the future of all of America to be manipulated by the corrupt urban machines any longer. The American people -- all of the American people -- need real change, right now."

That would have resonated with both the white working class and the white professional class, neither of whom owe their survival to the machine or the talented tenth patronage networks. Throw in Trump's reminder that minority drones voting for the machine only get to avoid starvation and homelessness, rather than truly thrive, and that would have demoralized a lot of the drones into staying home in apathy.

Fast-forward to the 2020 primary, and Bernie is not only losing the ethnic battle but the class battle too. Most of his former professional white supporters have defected to Elizabeth "Barabbas" Warren, although his working-class white supporters remain fairly faithful. He (and Warren) still have minimal minority support, which remains consolidated around the machine candidate (Biden).

This development also shows that ethnicity is stronger than class in these primaries. If Bernie's professional white voters from 2016 had chosen to defect solely on the basis of class interests, they would've simply gone over to Biden. The elite class would be united behind Biden, rather than split along ethnic lines as they were in 2016. Instead, they demanded a candidate of their own -- it could've been Harris or Buttigieg, but they found their ideal match with Warren.

So, just as in 2016, the elite class is split, with minority elites favoring the machine candidate, and white elites favoring an anti-corruption reformer -- only this time, a reformer who is solidly professional-class in her goals (Warren), rather than one who focused on the working class (Bernie).

Unity vs. fragmentation is therefore along the ethnic dimension -- whites are fragmented, minorities are united. That is not a picture of class struggle, where at least the elites would be united, and the working class either united or divided.

Incidentally, why did professional whites abandon Bernie this time around? They still wanted to reject the machine candidate who draws his support from minorities -- they still want to be the white crowd, just as they do in their choice of neighborhood, school, culture, and hobbies. But they always have to make sure everyone knows they are the good white people, the noble white people -- not those bad, disreputable white people.

Back in 2015 and most of 2016, professional white liberals just assumed that working-class white Democrats would follow their lead on everything. So they had no reason to reject a coalition with working-class whites during the primary, and were perfectly fine being part of the Bernie group.

However, during and after the general election, professional white liberals learned that a good chunk of Bernie primary voters had actually defected to Trump, since he was more populist than Clinton (who was a woke elitist). Although it was only 10-15% of Bernie voters who switched, that had to have been concentrated among the working-class Sandernistas in the Rust Belt, and not the prog crusaders of the coastal elite bubbles. So among working-class white Bernie voters, the defection rate was probably closer to 50%.

That, combined with the broader elite backlash against the white working class for putting Trump over the top in a way that no other Republican could have dreamed of, made the professional white Bernie supporters want to find a candidate of their own for 2020. They could not tolerate mixing their purity with the pollution of the deplorables -- who, by voting Bernie-then-Trump, proved themselves to be crypto-fascists.

The Warren people are not even trying to reel back in the working-class white Bernie voters. They must remain ritually clean, and a demographic that has revealed itself to be dirty crypto-fascists cannot be allowed back into the holy circle. At the same time, they can't tolerate contamination by the corrupt machine demographics, so they're just splintering off into a purity cult that does not intend to win anything. Better to die pure than to live polluted.

This one-two punch is why Bernie will garner less support this time than the last. And that also means the Democrat nominee, likely Biden, will do even worse in the general than Hillary did. Last time, there was only a two-way fracture among the Democrats -- machine drones and disillusioned reformers. Now there will be a three-way fracture -- machine drones, bitter fans of the professional-class reformer, and disillusioned fans of the working-class reformer. For Democrats, party unity and enthusiasm will be lower in 2020 than in 2016.

So how could Bernie and his diehard supporters recover by 2024 to pull off a realignment then, if not right now? His most pressing problem is the lack of college-educated white support, which he had back in 2016 but lost to Warren fans. Those professionals left over their disgust toward the deplorables in Bernie's coalition, so the only professionals that Bernie could scoop up would be those who are Independent or Republican -- the kind who prefer Tucker Carlson as their mainstream news source, and Michael Tracey as their go-to Twitter journalist.

Obviously they would have to be economic populists, but a good chunk of them are, despite having college degrees. And they would love to join up with former Trump-sympathizing populists, regardless of what party or class background they had come from, and regardless of who they have to support now, after Trump's failure to realign the system in office.

Bernie or his successor would still have to ignore -- indeed, demoralize -- the machine drones, but bringing in the Tucker fans would make that all the easier. Those newcomers would have even less loyalty to urban Democrat machines, or to the talented tenth elite promotion system. They're mainly white, after all.

Why wouldn't they go with their pure class interests and choose Warren? Because she's an impotent polarizer and a puritan, not to mention an annoying libtard. The newcomers would want to feel socially and culturally welcome, not hectored by wokescolds for their original racist sins, male privilege, bla bla bla.

Bernie actually offered that, relative to Hillary, in 2016 -- she was the polarizing, annoying woketard, not him. He, or his successor, needs to bring that back. And what's stopping him now? -- he's already lost the professional white liberals to Warren or her successor. He needs all the help he can get from professional whites who are moderate or conservative on social issues, but still populist and anti-interventionist.

Tulsi and Yang have made a pitch in that direction, but they have minimal or no political capital to amass an army and make changes happen. Bernie should start laying the ground by going on Tucker -- like he did on Joe Rogan -- all throughout the primary and general election, preaching the realignment rather than just "vote blue no matter who". And there is no realignment except through massive defections from the dominant to the opposition coalition.

It should be simple -- "I just want all Americans to be taken care of on a material level, and to be left alone in social and cultural matters." Whoever brands as the non-crazy Democrat will win the defectors. So far, only Biden is attempting that, to attract yuppie Republicans. Bernie must go even further, to attract populist Republicans. That means ignoring the concern-trolling libtards when he says "live and let live" to cultural conservatives. For every yuppie libtard Bernie lost to Warren, he would pick up two moderate populists who watch Tucker.

ANES variables: v161021a, v161270, v161310x


  1. This analysis is very lacking. The strongest indicator by far whether you support Bernie or not is age and you don't mention it once.

  2. Because it's a red herring. It's generation, not age per se, that most predicts support for Bernie.

    All it says is that the post-Boomer generations, particularly Millennials, are ready for an overhaul of some kind or another, since they have never benefited from the current Reaganite neolib regime, whose revolutionaries were the Silents and especially the Boomers.

    Since the post is practically oriented, there's nothing worth discussing about generational turnover -- you just have to wait for Boomers to die off and Millennials and Gen Z-ers to take over more of the age pyramid.

    Young people never vote -- ever. They cannot be organized and turned out en masse. The only reason that Boomers had such a large effect when they were under 40 was not because they had higher *rates* of participation, but because their sheer population size was so much larger relative to the other generations. They truly were a baby boom.

    It's just like with the crime wave of the '60s - '80s. Even if Boomers were just as violently inclined during the ages of 15-24, the fact that this age range was suddenly twice as large as it used to be, is going to shift society in a much more violent and criminal direction. Particularly since their pop growth was not part of overall pop growth -- there was no doubling of the older age groups to keep the Boomers in check. It was a baby boom, not a general population expansion.

    And young people *really* don't vote at the primary stage, where the machine drones must be defeated for Bernie types to take over the Democrat side of the general election.

    Focusing on young people is a dead end analytically and practically. Generational turnover is worthwhile analytically -- although it doesn't apply to the short term, nor does it offer practical insights.

  3. You "What does Bernie need to triumph in 2024?"
    Me: Depends undergarments, really good anti-dementia meds, and bathing in the blood of virgins oughtta do it.

  4. Boomer-tier cringe, and probably from a Gen X-er who should know better.

  5. "It's just like with the crime wave of the '60s - '80s. Even if Boomers were just as violently inclined during the ages of 15-24, the fact that this age range was suddenly twice as large as it used to be, is going to shift society in a much more violent and criminal direction. Particularly since their pop growth was not part of overall pop growth -- there was no doubling of the older age groups to keep the Boomers in check. It was a baby boom, not a general population expansion."

    Also, the Boomer cohorts got bigger and bigger for about 11 years, peaking around 1957 and then gradually diminishing from 1958-1964. So in the mid-late 70's there were tons of vulnerable and reckless youngsters forming an ample pool of victims. The mid-late 70's being a peak period of hitch-hiking, binge drinking, car crashes etc. can be attributed in large part to the biggest Boomer cohorts being in their late teens and early 20's at this time. And then, in the late 80's and 90's, social dysfunction seemed to heavily shift towards blacks, due in large part to the fact that black birth cohorts of the 60's and 70's were large relative to the white cohorts of the time.

    "Young people never vote -- ever. They cannot be organized and turned out en masse. The only reason that Boomers had such a large effect when they were under 40 was not because they had higher *rates* of participation, but because their sheer population size was so much larger relative to the other generations. They truly were a baby boom."

    Hey, so many Boomers tell me that since many of the politicians they voted for in the 80's and 90's weren't themselves Boomers, then therefore the Boomers are absolved of responsibility for the state of politics. Try as you might to convince them things just didn't have to be this way, that your generation (and it's most powerful members) could've acted, talked, voted. etc. a different way....They mostly don't listen. Even worse, they blame people under 40 for things they had absolutely nothing to do with (Google Ngram shows that "Hate speech" first became talked about around 1987, and campus speech codes existed by 1990). On the other hand, the "Reagan Revolution" was launched when the oldest Boomer cohort was in it's mid-30's.

    And let's not even get into Boomers blaming the New Deal era (!) for ill-advised social change and cultural revolutions. Nah, the hippie airheads (and eventual Reagan era yuppies) were primarily Boomers who detested the stability of the New Deal era, whose agitation against vice control and regulation has wrecked the middle class and radically altered the culture and demographics of the West

  6. This highlights a key distinction b/w Clinton and Warren, who are otherwise fairly similar to each other, and both very different from Bernie.

    Namely, the role they're playing in intra-party jockeying for control among various factions.

    Clinton 2016 was the urban machine candidate, Bernie the non-urban take-on-the-machine reformer.

    In 2020, Biden is the urban machine candidate. Bernie was supposed to play the same role as before, only now Warren has butted in to compete over this role.

    Warren has no appeal to urban minority drones, she's making anti-corruption a central theme, and she's hyping up meritocracy -- all squarely taking aim at the machine patronage model. She's supplying the demand of non-urban voters, and especially non-urban whites (whether suburban professional whites, or rural working-class whites).

    None of that was true for Hillary in 2016 -- running on an anti-corruption theme, against urban machines? Ha!

    I don't think Warren has done as well as she has b/c she's a leftoid polarizer -- it's in spite of that. Otherwise she would not have stolen so much of Bernie's rural voters, who are not leftoid polarizers. It's more b/c she's taken on the role of anti-machine reformer, which used to belong solely to Bernie.

    Aside from emphasizing populist economics and burying the hatchet in the culture war, he should take back the anti-machine reformer role from Warren. Do not continue the failed strategy of being the "most left," nor of focusing so much on urban voters.

  7. "I don't think Warren has done as well as she has b/c she's a leftoid polarizer -- it's in spite of that. Otherwise she would not have stolen so much of Bernie's rural voters, who are not leftoid polarizers."

    This makes her sound a lot like Trump! It has really hit home for me this past week what a uniquely terrible politician he is and it's primarily because he eschews coalition building for polarization and being an inflammatory right-wing caricature.
    There was a broad coalition fighting back against Russiagate in 2017 that was basically foisted on him while he was feeling and it wasn't easy. In 2019, the homestretch, he's going to win big, but it's incredible how many he's demoralized and alienated now that he's more in control. He's making winning such a struggle; his handling of this looks exactly like how he campaigns. How tragic to throw away that advantage that done him so well.

    Is there negative 4D chess???

  8. Bernie did awful with blacks everywhere but with Hispanics he won in Illinois and Nevada while losing in Texas and Florida, Illinois and Nevada have much higher unionization rates than Texas or Florida.

  9. That pattern is true for whites, too, more importantly. He lost whites by 10 points in FL, where they were 48% of turnout (Latinos 20%), and lost whites by 16 points in TX, where they were 43% of turnout (Latinos 32%).

    He won whites by 15 points in IL, where they were 58% of turnout (Latinos 9%), and won whites by 2 points in NV, where they were 59% of turnout (Latinos 19%).

    Bernie nearly won IL and NV, vs. wipe-out in TX and FL.

    You can point to unionization, but again the main variable is race -- Dem primary voters in IL and NV were much whiter than in TX and FL. He just needed to convince a handful more of the whites, or juice up their turnout rate, or demoralize the non-whites into staying home on primary day (especially blacks).

    Blacks are locked in to the machine / talented tenth system, so he can't squeeze much more blood from that stone. He should instead focus on minimizing their turnout on primary day. If leftoids think that limiting black turnout on Dem primary day means rescinding their voting rights on the general day, or is the first step toward genocide, they need to have their head examined -- and admit they don't want to win, they just want to try to amass as many new cool black friends as possible, to make them feel less racist or whatever.

    As for Latinos, he could squeeze a little more blood from that stone since they're not deeply rooted in any form of American politics, including the machine. But by the same token, they are notoriously apathetic and won't reliably turn out on primary day (or general day). Especially if they're immigrants, and especially if they're illegals -- lowest rates of civic engagement period.

    You have to persuade who is actually going to show up on primary day, and that is mainly white people, plus a decent share being blacks -- who are not persuadable for a populist anti-machine guy like Bernie.

  10. Procedural fetishism applies to racial composition of the coalition, just as it does to all aspects of liberal ideology and strategy.

    Libs think that you need to have a multiracial working-class coalition in order to deliver material benefits to bottom 80% of society once the candidate gets elected and takes office.

    Dead wrong -- the New Deal began without blacks playing much role at all on the coalition side, not until it was almost over with (1960s). And Wall Street banks were a major coalition member (still are). Yet the New Deal Dems delivered desegregation in one area of society after another, not to mention economic / labor gains for workers of all races.

    The New Deal did bring together disparate ethnic groups who didn't always like each other -- but that was Northeastern whites and Southern whites, not whites and blacks. And the fragmenting of the New Deal coalition meant a rupture within whites -- Northeastern and Southern whites parting ways -- not between blacks and (some group of) whites.

    Fast-forward to today when the electoral coalition is actually multiracial, and they can't get anything done.

    Multiracial coalitions are neither necessary (see the New Deal) nor sufficient (see neoliberalism) for delivering material benefits to the bottom 80% of society of all races.

    Libs are so masturbatory about the means, that they sacrifice the ends. It's virtue signaling, moralistic preening, etc. "Look how multiracial our coalition is!" -- so what? What is it actually delivering for their constituents or society as a whole? Jack shit.

    New Deal Dems, who were vast-majority white for 95% of the New Deal era, delivered a hell of a lot more.

    Focus on the ends, not the means.

  11. "Libs are so masturbatory about the means, that they sacrifice the ends. It's virtue signaling, moralistic preening, etc. "Look how multiracial our coalition is!" -- so what? What is it actually delivering for their constituents or society as a whole? Jack shit."

    The Right-wing parallel is cultural conservatives in the post-Carter era soap boxing about "family values" and such, while actually doing very little to win any battles, often on the grounds that "they" won't let us win. Come to think of it, at least the ID politics New Left did do what they set out to do (give greater visibility to non-whites and the sexually abnormal), whereas the neo-lib era cultural conservatives (the "Religious Right") have been hapless bystanders to the total failure of their initial stated goals regarding public policy as it pertains to abortion, homosexuality, drugs, family stability, the maintenance of cultural tradition, and so forth.

  12. I hate being right so early: from 2016, shift from ID pol to class easier on the right than left. Feb 2016:

    Reason: left-wing ID politics are about ascribed status, right-wing ID politics about achieved status. People stick to their ID guns more when the identity is beyond their control, an innate core of who they are.

    In addition to evangelical Christianity, I'd add gun owner and non-urban resident to right-wing ID pol that are based on achieved status. They choose to own guns or not, and choose to live in rural or suburban places. They're not born into it, and it's not beyond their control.

    Of course, this only applies to the electoral base of each party -- Trump defeated right-wing ID pol during 2016, but in office the GOP elites took over, buried economic populism, and threw meaningless r-w ID pol to the rubes instead.

    For Dems, it would be the opposite pattern. It's a daunting challenge for them to kill off ID pol during a primary, and focus on class instead. But if they successfully did so, they'd have an easier time doing economic populism in office (e.g., under a Bernie admin -- or FDR admin).

    I think it's going to come down to the Dem elites getting sick of being the opposition rather than dominant party, and defunding and otherwise shutting down left-wing ID pol during their primaries.

    So far, there's little sign of improvement among the various groups in the Dem base -- they're pretending 2016 did not happen, and are right back to whites vs. non-whites as the first filter, and then professional vs. working class as the second filter (distinguishing Warren from Sanders among whites).

    I don't pretend to be certain that there actually is a way out of this mess that the Dems started with the ID pol phenomenon. They obviously weren't planning ahead.

    Aside from Dem elite intervention, the only solution is a hostile takeover of their primary by Trumpian populist Republicans -- they flood in and vote for Bernie in massive numbers, not giving a shit about Pocahontas or the right-hand man of My Cool Black President.

    That needed to happen between '16 and '20 -- and it has not. So there will be no shift to class, away from ID pol, and we'll get another awful GOP admin after Trump leaves. Populist rhetoric, elitist policies, and right-wing ID pol to keep the rubes from grumbling.


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