As one of the most demographically representative states in the country, and one with an enormous amount of American history packed into it to boot, the gubernatorial results out of Virginia this week are worth examining as a way of better understanding America's contemporary social landscape.
- Cuccinelli, the Republican, won among whites by a margin (56%-36%) nearly identical to the margin Romney did in the 2012 presidential election (59%-39%). McAullife, the Democrat, similarly won among blacks (90%-8% compared to Obama's 93%-6%). No surprises here. At 72% of the Virginia electorate and shrinking, it is difficult for Republicans to win nationally representative elections without winning 2-to-1 among whites. The exit polling data do not report results for other groups due to insufficient sample size, but it's safe to assume McAullife won among the Hispanic/Asian/other residual about as convincingly as Obama did last year.
- Despite all the political polarization etc etc, the third party pipe dream is becoming less and less tenable as the US becomes less and less non-Hispanic white. Whites are the only people with whom Kang's famous taunt to (or was it Kodos'?) "go ahead, throw your vote away", actually resonates. Sarvis, the libertarian, got over 87% of his votes from whites. Cuccinelli received a strikingly similar share of his total votes from whites, coming in at just under 89%. McAullife, in contrast, received just over half of his votes (54%) from whites. Perhaps the seemingly disparate Democratic coalition breaks apart at some point in the future, but currently whites are the only ones who appear to have any willingness to oppose it.
- Why I think Rand Paul's liberty message has legs to stand on in the future: Sarvis' won nearly 15% of voters under age 30 but less than 6% of those aged 30 and over. Whether or not this is constitutes the making of a deal with the devil, reasonable people will disagree.
- The fat-cats-versus-working-class-union-types dichotomy became antiquated decades ago, not least because of the spending advantage Democrats now regularly enjoy, this election clearly being no exception. The new paradigm pits the top and the bottom in alliance against the middle:
Though he lost the race, Cuccinelli won comfortably among voters in households with annual incomes in the $50k-$100k range, and held his own in the $30k-$50k and $100k-$200k ranges, but was blown out by McAullife both among those earning less than $30k and among those making $200k+.
- Another way to characterize today's political dynamic is to pit the government trough eaters and trough fillers against the government food trough producers, or value transferers vs. value creators. Without the state's DC suburbs, from which almost 1-in-5 voters hailed from, Cuccinelli would've won by nearly the same margin he ended up losing by.
- While arguing that there should be some sort of property ownership requirement as a prerequisite to voting eligibility will figuratively lead to one being tarred-and-feathered to shouts of "no to Jim Crow!", the exit polls offer a more modest tact to take in opposition to universal suffrage, of a less personal nature than that preferred by Howard Stern, but similarly based.
Queried on whether Cuccinelli's positions--fairly described as strongly socially conservative within the parameters of contemporary American politics--were too liberal, too conservative, or just right, 8% of exit poll respondents answered "too liberal". Among this group comprising 8% of the electorate, 77% voted for McAullife! The actions of the 13% who said he was too liberal but still voted for him and to a lesser extent the 9% who said the same while voting for Sarvis are comprehensible, but the only conclusion regarding the vast majority who voted for McAuliffe because Cuccinelli is too liberal is that they simply have no idea what "liberal" or "conservative" means in a political context! These are people who would garner a goose egg (okay, it's multiple choice, but you get the idea) on Pew's Political News IQ test, unable to name the vice president or say which party controls the Senate.
Let's not be too critical of this contingent of utterly clueless voters, though. Chances are, they are quite a vibrantly diverse and diversely vibrant crowd and consequently worthy of reverence (even if--or perhaps especially because!--they come almost exclusively from the bottom part of that top-and-bottom alliance we spoke of earlier).
The reverse probably occurred as well, as there were inevitably a few Cuccinelli voters who said McAullife was "too conservative", but their numbers were too small to be statistically reliable and thus were not reported on.