Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Makers Vs. Takers: FIGHT!

There are a lot of "theories" about who voted for Obama and why--today we're going to look at a few of them.

Why Is This Interesting?
Facebook Poster Zach D. says:
"We live in a country of people who support Barrack Obama as their Santa Clause. We live in a country of entitled idiots who just want everything for free. This isn't sustainable and Republicans understand that which is why they are putting their foot down. Quit feeding the beast that will devour us. Tame it. Only Republicans understand that this mess is caused by spending and promises that can't be kept. Us Republicans understand that to keep American exceptionalism alive for our children it is going to require sacrifice today. Democrats are too stupid to figure this out which is why they want to spend spend spend spend spend to utopia."
It's true: this is some random guy on Facebook--but, uh, what about Romney? Twice even? Or Paul Ryan? If the Republicans believe (as is, as least partially, undoubtedly true) that they got out-gamed, that's one thing. If they believe that people voted for Obama because he'd be their own personal 'Santa Caluse' [sic] though, that's, well, the problem with the GOP's internal issues right now. If you don't admit you have a problem you aren't going to get better.

So let's see: who are these entitled idiots?

Bring On The Clowns
One of--perhaps the most salient--features of conspiracy theory thinking is that it is immune to logic. If you point out there's no evidence of X that becomes evidence of how well X was perpetrated. Likewise, if there is any contradictory math the theory simply mutates to account for it. This is because, of course, the theory is about the desired outcome. For each demographic we will look at how the Makers-vs-Takers (or sheep vs. heroic individualists) meme accounts for them.
Here Is A Big Chart
Blacks voted overwhelmingly for Obama. Obama won 40% of whites--the same number that voted for Dukakis. Obama won because, while still a strong majority (72% of the electorate), they were a smaller slice of the pie this year.
White's Share Declined By 13% In 20 Years.
Conspiracy Theory: The theory is that:
  1. It was racism: this needs little explanation.
  2. It was Obama-Phones: Obama has several give-away programs that Romney would discontinue.
  3. They're sheep.
Analysis: The problem with racism is that once you start ascribing it to the racial vote you wind up suggesting that maybe 72% of the whites who voted for Romney (also an overwhelming majority) were racist too. Trust me, you don't want to go there. The phones-thing is based on a lot of Internet rumor and some (often misrepresented) facts. Yes, the federal government Lifeline program provides phones to people who need assistance. No, this wasn't started under Obama--in 2008 it became cheaper to provide cell phones rather than land-lines. It's possible that marketing (Obama's picture was used in promoting the service by 3rd parties who benefit by helping provide it)--but mostly this is just an Internet rumor given voice by a particularly vivid snippet of video.

Reality: There are probably some percent of black voters who voted for Obama on little more than the basis that "he's like me" (the color of his skin). If you consider this racist, that's fine. There are also, clearly, some white voters who would vote Anybody But Obama because they don't like the color of his skin. Trying to determine which is more would be tough. Obama won 4% more of the black-vote than Dukasis did and Obama had 3% more of the electorate in his slice. 

If you believe with a straight face that Romney was more equally to blacks (especially demographically lower income blacks) as Bush 1 then you might decide that Obama got a 4% racism bonus. If you believe it was "the phones," let me get my tinfoil hat collection: I have one in your color.

Finally, if you really believe that the black vote is significantly "racist" you have to ask yourself "What minority does the GOP win?!?" (And no, despite some demographic shifts it isn't white males yet, smart guy). As the answer is "none," you may want to reconsider whether the issue is purely racism or whether there might be some other factors in play that are turning off non-white voters.

Analysis: <4% Takers. NOTE: The ObamaPhones thing should be The Poor (see further down) rather than "Blacks"--but there is a viral video showing a black woman talking about how Obama gave her a phone that was popular in some circles.

There isn't a lot to discuss here. Almost no one disagrees that the GOP's position on immigration hurt them with Hispanic voters. 

Conspiracy Theory: Hispanics are heavily influenced by a desire for amnesty for illegal immigrants and therefore don't vote for strong borders.

Reality: That this is primarily about immigration can be seen in the Cuban vote. Cubans do not face the same immigration issues  as other Hispanics and are cooler to Obama than Hispanics as a whole (the degree, however, is in dispute). As a test case this is evidence in favor of the immigration theory. However, the problem with the theory is that it lumps a bunch of stuff in together. The "Build an Electric Fence" position (kill incoming immigrants) and the "papers-please" Arizona law do not have to be literal amnesty to be potentially upsetting or, in Rick Perry's words ... heartless.

Analysis: Whether Illegal/Undocumented Immigrants are a net benefit or drain depends on how you measure it.While net productivity (hard workers, low wages) may be a plus--and standard entitlements (Medicaid, Medicare, etc.) are not available to non-citizens, there is some evidence that they do incur a drain on the society by using some public services. This, however, is generally minimal (the significant impact in low-skill, low-paid jobs). Illegal immigration also brings positives (lower costs in restaurants, etc.) to the table. The big picture is hard to argue though:

  1. The voters by in large are legal (yeah, there may be some fraud, no, despite what you think it is tiny). Hispanic workers are generally seen as being hard-working. They are Makers.
  2. The actual Illegal Immigrants themselves are working hard for very little pay and no benefits. They are living the capitalist dream. They are also net-Makers.
Therefore: Makers, not Takers.

Especially troubling for GOP analysts is the Asian preference for Obama. Asians are high-earners as a minority demographic. They tend to be better educated (and better at academics) than the average. They are not targets of the same kinds of discrimination that other minorities are (stereotype: good at math).

Conspiracy Theory: Hey--a lot of "Asians" are Pakistani ... if you know what I mean ... and I think you do.

Reality: The Asian demographic covers all of them. Obama's 73% Asian landslide isn't just Muslims Asians. On the other hand, it does cover a lot of non-Christians and the current thinking is that the GOP's religious alignment may be responsible for some of the gap. It's also worth noting that another wealthy minority, Jews, also voted heavily for Obama. Clearly something the GOP is doing is alienating minorities (and DON'T GO THERE--IT STARTS CUTTING INTO THE 4% 'RACIST' BLACK VOTE!).

I will posit that, perhaps, the "Real America" vibe leaves Asians a bit cold.

Analysis: Makers.

One of the big theories was that Jews got guilted into voting Obama in 2008 and would now come home to, erm, Jesus and vote Romney after Obama was basically handing nukes to Iran with "Air-Mail to Israel" stamped on them. It didn't happen. But the Jewish vote was a big part of the plan: they "care most" about the economy and Israel and this was supposed to hand them to Romney.

Conspiracy Theory: There is almost no conspiracy theory for Jews either. Exactly why this is, is interesting. I suspect it is because of the role that Jews play in the GOP conspiracy-theory narrative. Firstly they are seen (generally--by the more mainstream Republicans) as makers (same as Asians) and not takers. Secondly, Israel is a key component of the the GOP's foreign policy (and evangelical provoke Armageddon strategy) trash-talking them is problematic.

Usually? The "media" gets the blame.

Reality: Culturally conservative hassidic Jews apparently voted for Romney in huge numbers. Cruelly  this was in, like, New York where none of it mattered. Swing-state Jews voted for Obama in the same numbers as 2008. The lack of good conspiracy theory is interesting here: any makers-vs-takers arc will have to account for the Jewish vote. As it can't (hey, wait: don't Jews have some racism and discrimination issues? And what about seeing the GOP as, uh, the Christian Party--maybe that could--what? What? What does S-T-F-U mean? I have to Google--ohh.) people will have to look elsewhere ... or ignore it completely.

Which is usually what happens.

Analysis: Makers.

The Poor
The Romney 47% narrative (and the gifts thing, I guess) was that the poor would vote for Obama no matter what. Indeed, it is a key pillar of GOP thinking that government dependence (the safety-net) keeps people on the democratic dole.

The Conspiracy Theory: The takers have won! The poor voted for Obama because: Gravy Train. When he wins the rich it's white-guilt.

Reality: Obama won all incomes under 50 across all states. Romney won conclusive victories in incomes above 50k in most states exit polled but, notably, not blue-states.
Takers in BLUE
This gives some credence to the taker theory if you hold that anyone under 50k is a taker ... if they live in Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire, PA, VA, FLA, OH, NC, AZ, MO, or IND. Apparently not a taker if they live in say, NY or CN. But okay.

It's also notable that of the 10 richest counties in America, nine of them voted for Obama. It appears the analysis is something like this:
In poor states, poor people vote Democrat and wealthy people vote Republican. The same is true in a medium-income state, though less so than in the poor state. In the wealthy state, however, income has very little effect on voting: both the rich and the poor vote Democrat and Republican.
Depending on who you ask, the under 50k voting segment is either around 42% of Americans or a whopping 60% (see here). The numbers say that of the actually unemployed (definitely Takers) they split down the middle between Romney and Obama.

Analysis: Neither. If somewhere in the middle of the electorate are the <50k per year crowd and of the actual definite Takers (the unemployed) they split 50-50 then it is pretty hard to say that Obama just got the Takers. Romney got more of the rich in red states and lost the rich in some of the bluer states and Obama won, well, around the middle. We should also note that In Sept Romney was seen as 'pretty strong' amongst the Takers... I mean the low-income voters, and that was supposed to be one of his demographics way back when.

The Young
If you are not liberal as a young man you have no heart. If you are not conservative as an old man, you have no brain. It's a saying for a reason, I guess. The youth-vote was instrumental in 2008 but, by 2012, the theory was that disaffected out-of-work college students would have fading Obama posters on their walls and would either stay home or punch it for Romney.

Conspiracy Theory: Liberalism went underground and attacked from "within" by seizing the college campuses with their communist professors and the grade-schools with their anti-bullying, pro-gay agendas. This has paid off in the youth vote who will cast a ballot for gay-sex rather than their own jobs. No wonder student-loan forgiveness and their parent's insurance until age 26 sounds good to them!

Reality: Obama really did win the young vote and I would guess that student loan issues and Obama-care insurance extensions sounded good to them ... oh, and to someone else too: their parents. Yeah. Let's not look to closely at that one. Here are the numbers:
Young And Dumb
Also, uh, Obama won 30-44 which ... uh, is my demographic. And yours (no, Dad, not yours). The margins are smaller and Obama didn't win all the states in 30-44--but he didn't lose all the states for the "rich" either. What gives? It might be gifts. It might be social issues.

Let's use the young white vote, though, as a base-line. We are told they are college educated (more-so than minorities, right?) and out of work and hurting. They are Takers since they aren't getting employment and they want Student Loan forgiveness. Romney won them 51-44. That doesn't mean non-whites aren't also Takers. Heck, they're probably worse--but they weren't being bought by their parent's insurance and pay back for that college education they didn't get.

Analysis: Takers. The young are generally Takers--but Romney won his share of them too.

Much has been made of the alleged "Republican weakness with women." Indeed, Romney did spend a good deal of effort reaching out to the double-X demographic. Did women turn on him? Was it the "War on Women?"

Conspiracy Theory: Obama promised women free contraception which bought their vote. He and the media also propagated the War on Women lie which cost Romney. Look at Sandra Fluke.

Reality: Firstly, while it's true that Obama won women, that statement needs some unpacking: he did not win white women. The reason Romney won white women and still lost is that white women made up fewer percent of the electorate this year than before (about 3% less compared to 2004) and Obama overwhelmingly won non-white women.

So, okay: were women bought by the gift of free contraception? Well, considering that Romney also won married women, we might think so--after all, they are less likely to sleep around (and therefore less easily swayed). The fact that Obama won Catholics, though, who presumably don't use contraception speaks against that (of course a lot of Catholics do use contraception and vote Democrat despite some issues there, so who knows).

But that's not the whole story: While Romney did "win white women," compared to white men he wasn't so impressive. Consider this:
Romney’s performance among white women was 6 points worse than his performance among white men. His performance among black women was 8 points worse than his performance among black men. His performance among Latino women was 10 points worse than his performance among Latino men.
In this context it may be that while Obama won whites in general and minorities were pretty turned off by Romney (electorally speaking, anyway) it appears that women, on the whole, were not as enthusiastic about Romney as men across the board. Could that be because of contraception?

Well, here's the question: what race uses the most contraception? Are white women less likely to use contraception and therefore less likely to be swayed by the gifts? No: white women use more contraception than most other demographics. Furthermore married women use contraception as much as anyone else. Romney won married women so that doesn't hold up.

Could it be Roe v. Wade? Planned Parenthood? Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a slut? Maybe two guys running for the Senate talking about rape in fairly blood curdling ways? It's hard to say--but the idea that this was all about contraception and, specifically, free contraception--remember the guy who was second to Romney (Santorum--remember way back when) had some fairly iffy ideas on contraception at one point--is missing a whole lot of other things that might upset women voters. There is no indication that, for example, white women appreciate "free contraception" (it is insurance-paid-for so it is not free, ask anyone who pays for insurance).

Analysis: Maker. Well, the analysis that women were easily bought off by "free contraception" might in and of itself be the insult to women's intelligence that made them skeptical of the GOP. Who can say--but this isn't a gift issue.

What Do I Think?
I think the simple answer is that Romney (and the GOP) has a "Real America" problem. The "Real America" Palin spoke of was heard by a lot of people as middle America white folks ... and they mostly did vote for Romney. Minorities, the young, and, erm, women didn't. If you say the GOP potentially has a lot of positive stuff to say for women, fine. I agree. If you deny the GOP as a party has said a slew of shitty things to women you have your head in the sand.

I think one of the more pernicious memes that this election launched was the Maker-vs-Taker discussion being baked into the dialog. Romney said it. Said he was "completely wrong"--and then said it again. Ryan said it--or mostly said it. A lot of "the base" cheered Romney for saying it.

It's wrong. Romney is the guy who got 47% of the electorate this time around, not Obama. Rich people, high earners, Jews and Asians voted for Obama in large numbers for a variety of reasons (most of which we can't know)--the election didn't come down to class warfare or racial politics. Trying to simplify things so you can feel better about Nov 6th doesn't do you any favors.

If you hate the people who voted for Obama ... you hate America.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. There's a very simple reason why Jews don't vote for Republicans, and it has nothing to do with Israel. No matter what we say, most of us put secularism at the top of our list. The minute a candidate extolls his or her Christian virtues, we immediately vote for the other guy.

  3. So an athiest would get the Jewish vote? Not sure I totally buy that. However, I clearly do think that there's a strain of evangelical Christian identity in the GOP base that, uh, might create problems ... even maybe for Catholics.