New Hampshire: The Angry White Electorate

NewHampshireIn a blow to moderates across America, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump exceeded expectations Tuesday night by beating their opponents by 20 point margins. The election was called about thirty seconds before the polls closed, and with under 10% of the voting reported. A bump in fundraising for Sanders and a jump in the polls for Trump is sure to follow, but just how concerned should we be?

Before we all submit and embrace the anti-establishment, let’s take a deep breath and look at some numbers. To understand what happened in New Hampshire, you first have to understand its primary rules, and then you have to understand its demographics.

Independent.

Under New Hampshire primary rules, anyone undeclared can vote in either primary. That means that independents can vote for whichever party they choose. Independents by nature have a tendency to reject party politics. They prefer candidates who buck the system and challenge the status quo. The fact that a state that courts independents went for outsiders like Trump and Sanders shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Exit polling showed that independent participation made up about a third of the voting for Republicans, and nearly 40% for Democrats. Polarization also played a large role. Moderates only made up about 24% of the electorate, with more people than ever claiming to be liberal or conservative.

Suburban, and predominantly white.

According to the latest U.S. Census data, New Hampshire is also one of the whitest states in the country. Whites make up 94% of the population compared to 77.4% for the whole of America. It has a median income of $64,916 and a poverty rate seven points lower than the national average. Homeownership and higher education also score higher in New Hampshire than the rest of the country.

The results in New Hampshire should be taken in that context. They are a microcosm of the state’s demographics. Last night’s primary is an isolated anecdote that is hardly representative of America. A state that embraces the motto, “Live free or die,” is going to have strong feelings about politics and government that reject the establishment not just on belief, but on principle.

Angry and anxious.

What we are dealing with is an angry white electorate. Suburban whites are mad a political system they believe no longer works in their interest. Exit polling also showed that one of the most important attributes voters sought in a candidate was that they, “care about people like me.” Nine in ten Democrats believed the economy favors the wealthy. 75% of voters from both parties said they were “very worried,” about the economy.

Republicans are angrier than Democrats. Nine in ten were dissatisfied with the federal government and at least half of Republican voters felt betrayed by their party. In one of the more shocking statistics to come out of last night’s primary, nearly 2/3 of Republicans supported a temporary ban on Muslims.

Fear and anger are powerful motivators, especially when politicians take advantage of the American public’s trend toward anxiety. New Hampshire may not be representative of America, but it is representative of a certain type of voter. A voter that ignores an improving economy that has always worked to the benefit of suburban whites. A voter that could be characterized as dangerous, because if they don’t know how good they have it now, will they ever?

It says something about our country when the most privileged group of voters whine about their circumstances and put more value on the candidate who cares about them, than the candidate that will be best for the country. They’ve been so busy pointing fingers at their imagined enemies, that they’ve run out of fingers to point back at themselves. Will enough ever be enough for the angry white electorate? Or will we all become victims of their collective temper tantrum?

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8 Responses to New Hampshire: The Angry White Electorate

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  5. Jnana Hodson says:

    If you’re suggesting there were moderate candidates in the election, the closest I could see was Hillary. Think about that. The blow to moderates happened before the first vote was cast — where was a moderate you could choose?
    On the Republican side, only Kasich has shown any willingness to work with all sides of the political spectrum, and many of his stands remain far to the right of the general public.
    Bernie, for all of his socialist label, is at least taking a hard look at the economy and its impact on working Americans.
    One thing I’ve seen over the years is that if a candidate can’t get a message across in New Hampshire, it won’t fly in a national campaign. We’re a perfect test market that way. It has nothing to do with being a privileged group but rather an informed body of mostly average Americans who go out of our way to meet candidates face-to-face, examine their character, listen to their message.
    I’m beginning to think this week’s primary results are closer to telling the political establishment “none of the above” when it comes to what’s best for the country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jlhugar says:

      Thank you for your comments.

      If you asked me who the moderates were in the election, I’d have to say that Kasich and Clinton are the closest we were going to get. If you look at their policies in comparison to Sanders and Trump, without getting hung up on personality politics, I think you’d draw the same conclusion.

      What Bernie is doing is drawing attention to a handful of problems that have been neglected to a degree by the Obama administration. I have no problem with this. What I do have a problem with, are the promises he’s making in order to drive up his poll numbers.

      When your message is: I’m going to tax the rich and give to the poor. It’s an easy sell. Of course that message works anywhere. So is the offering of large social programs that have zero chance of making it to Congress.

      Your comments seem to suggest that New Hampshire is somehow unique in its politics, which I will submit that being the nation’s first primary, yes it is. But sometimes being a member of privilege blinds you to your advantages. Not only are the people of New Hampshire advantaged by their demographic, but they are advantaged by being the first primary state in the country.

      Given the chance, many Americans would go out of their way to meet candidates face-to-face. For many of us, time and geography don’t allow for that luxury, but we do listen to their message and examine their character, so I don’t think New Hampshire is unique in that respect.

      I agree that the primary results may be saying what you say they are. Still, I’ll withhold judgment until more diverse states are represented. We respectfully disagree on what’s best for the country. I think that this whole anti-establishment sentiment is an over-reaction.

      Like

      • Jnana Hodson says:

        The primary has organic roots. It originated in our town meetings each March, a unique exercise in democracy.
        That said, I am uncomfortable with ways it’s spinning out of hand.
        I’m also uncomfortable with ways the biggest states are abdicating their role. The revival of favorite-son candidates who could wheel and deal at the convention is one way to stop what’s looking like an upcoming GOP train wreck in Cleveland.
        John Kasich’s strong second-place finish, by the way, is a demonstration of what can happen in these face-to-face exchanges. Having met him, I can say he had a maturity and honesty his rivals weren’t embodying. He certainly couldn’t match the big spending by the Bush-Cruz-Rubio division.
        Now it’s others’ turn to step in.

        Liked by 1 person

      • jlhugar says:

        Thank you for the real experience insight. I know Kasich said he was doing a lot of events. It’s nice to hear from someone who actually met him at one of these events. His maturity and ability to stay focused on a positive message is definitely getting my attention.

        Like

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