Wobbly Table

When all the vote counting is done, it looks like Trump will win the popular vote by a fair margin in the 49 states minus California and lose the popular vote by a couple of million votes when California is counted in. This is taken by many as a sign of the disenfranchisement of voters in large states like California and of the need to throw off the anti-majoritarian yoke of the electoral college (as Caribbeans say, “good luck with duh,”) but perhaps more interestingly, it shows what a good stand-in for Democrats’ ideal coalition California has become, and, perhaps, why Democrats have struggled to apply that same political strategy to the rest of the country. That is, Democrats have successfully made California into a one-party state through immigration-driven demographic change. Furthermore, they have been enabled in this by the dual presence of the United States’s two remaining world-beating industries, Hollywood and Silicon Valley, with the odd result that the state that generates a disproportionate component of American wealth is also the state with a disproportionately large portion of the nation’s poor people:




California has both a needy population that makes redistributive politics incumbent and the wealth to make that redistribution work. More apposite to Trump’s candidacy, California’s industries (including agriculture and Silicon Valley) depend on various forms of immigrant labor  directly as well as being situated in communities of the foreign born and their children. Indeed, California was in some ways a better advocate for Hillary than Hillary herself; Hollywood and the tech industry have both in different ways become more articulate and enthusiastic exponents of “social justice neoliberalism” than Democratic politicians themselves.

From a money perspective, Democrats have had four main geographic concentrations of support over the last decade: Hollywood and tech in California, the expanding Deep State in DC, and finance and media in New York. But like a four legged table that wobbles back and forth between its legs, the Democrats might have been better off without one of those posts. Most sensibly, nominating a Warren or Sanders-like candidate who hadn’t given a series of well-remunerated speeches to Wall Street banks would have made for a cleaner message, and the close cooperation between media and Hillary’s campaign served both to discredit media organizations in many voters’ eyes and, perhaps, to hurt rather than help her campaign.

I’m not particularly good at predictions, but it seems my sense this summer that the Democratic coalition that combined highly educated white and middle-class voters with lower-income blacks and Latinos was more dependent on Obama’s presence as a unifying force than was broadly realized has been borne out. (Obama was also dependent more on lower income white votes than the Democrats allowed into their secret algorithms.) California is evidently an exception to this pattern, most obviously because Donald Trump was in important ways a white identity candidate and whites are no longer even a plurality of Californians, but also because the economic logic of Clinton’s candidacy depended on the combination of great wealth and widespread impoverishment that makes California, for now, quite a bit different from the rest of the States.

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