Shock: Vox Got It Right?

AP Photo/Chris Seward

Stopped clock and all that. Vox got one right.  Color me surprised. 

Vox--the left-leaning "explainer" site for younger folks disconnected from reality has an essay that attempts to explain why Joe Biden is doing so poorly with voters that traditionally would be part of his winning coalition--hit the nail on the head. 


My world is rocked. 

It's not that Vox is always wrong--scratch that, Vox is always wrong--but that it has its own way of being wrong, using every liberal trope as assumptions on which to build a house of cards argument that could be toppled with even the merest breath of reality blowing. 

Yet Eric Levitz got it right in this analysis. His analysis is so good, in fact, that he is careful to note that he might be wrong. 

No, Eric, you are right this time. And yes, you should be worried about Biden and the possibility that younger folks might defect to the Republican Party over the longer term, too. It happened under Reagan. Could it happen this time? Who knows. 

The story of the 2024 election is looking deeply strange.

Donald Trump boasts a small but significant lead over Joe Biden in national polls, while also besting the president in most surveys of battleground states. By itself, this is less than shocking. Voters have long disapproved of the president, lamented inflation, and expressed more faith in Trump’s capacity to manage the economy.

If the Trump coalition’s formidable size is unsurprising, however, the same can’t be said of its demographic composition. 

In many polls, Biden’s level of support among white voters and senior citizens is comparable to his 2020 marks. Yet he has lost an extraordinary amount of standing with young and nonwhite voters.

Four years ago, Biden won voters under 30 by 23 points, Black voters by 79 points, and Hispanic ones by 35, according to the Democratic data firm Catalist

Now, the latest New York Times poll of battleground states shows Trump leading Biden by 3 points among young voters. Last week, a Fox News poll of voters nationwide found Biden tied with Trump among those under 30 in a two-way matchup. When third-party candidates were included, Trump led Biden by 10 points with younger voters, as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. took 16 percent of the group’s support.

Polling of nonwhite voters paints a similarly counterintuitive picture. In Fox’s poll, with third-party candidates included, Hispanic voters favored Biden by 5 points, while Black voters backed him by 36. 


You can't fault Eric's being surprised by Trump's strength in traditionally Democrat voting blocs because, well, they are traditionally Democrat voting blocs. If something is surprising, it needs an explanation. You can't attribute the shift to some epiphany people have had about the superiority of Republican policies because those policies haven't changed much since the shift away from Bushism that began in 2006 or so. 

Moreover, even shifts in policy rarely matter--if you are inclined to distrust a group, you likely aren't listening, and the very existence of voting blocs suggests that a huge component of voter behavior is cultural and identarian, not rational analysis. 

So, what did Levitz notice that explains the massive shift in opinion? Was there an aha! moment for him?

People have soured on "experts" and the Establishment. The Democrats are the party of the Establishment, and the Establishment is very much in disfavor at the moment. We live in a populist moment--one that the Establishment brought on itself, and younger people are feeling the pain the most. 

I’ve been toying with a different theory of the president’s woes, one that makes better sense of his peculiar demographic weaknesses: Voters with low levels of trust in society and the political system are shifting rightward.

Donald Trump redefined the GOP in the eyes of many, associating the party with a paranoid vision of American life and a populist contempt for the nation’s political system. In response, Democrats rallied to the defense of America’s greatness, norms, and institutions. As the parties polarized on the question of whether America was “already great,” voters with high levels of social trust and confidence in the political system became more Democratic, while those with low social trust and little faith in the government became more Republican.

This miniature realignment was apparent in 2016 and 2020, according to some analysts. And there is some reason to think that it may have accelerated over the past four years. If it did, then Biden’s peculiar difficulties with young, nonwhite, and/or low-propensity voters would make more sense, as those demographic groups evince unusually little trust in their government or fellow Americans. 

This theory is merely speculative. It’s consistent with many data points but proven by none. If true, however, it does not bode well for the Biden campaign. 


Something tells me that even Eric Levitz doesn't believe the BS that Democrats love America and its institutions, but on the larger issue he has a point. 

It's hilarious that the Democrats are the Establishment because they clearly hate America. But it is also true. Democrats run all our major institutions, from the mainstream media, the Executive Branch, and the Senate, almost every major city in America, academia, nonprofits, and especially the public health establishment that beclowned itself so badly over the past few years. 

Nobody believes the Democrat defense of American norms and institutions because the Democrats attack American norms and institutions almost reflexively. It is pro forma bulls**t. 

But the Democrats do RUN things, and they like that just fine. 

Younger people and minorities have soured on the institutions that Democrats run, seeing them as corrupt enemies of people like them. This is unsurprising because the institutions they hate are corrupt enemies of people like them.  And unlike older Americans, these young people are not even fans of what they see as American norms and institutions--they are just fine with the idea of tearing them down. 

Personally, that scares me, but I understand it. These kids have grown up in a world where the big institutions have betrayed them, and they are returning the favor. 


Biden's policies have crushed anybody with an income below the upper-middle class. His efforts to buy off constituencies haven't been effective because they target relatively privileged groups--college graduates and green energy companies--and few people expect that the overall economy and hence their futures will benefit. 

So we have a cynical group of people who feel betrayed looking for an alternative, and Trump is a natural. He, too, looks like a victim of the Establishment to them, and things were pretty good under Trump. 

Historically, a person with low levels of trust wasn’t much more likely to support one party over the other. There were Democratic misanthropes who believed that 9/11 was an inside job, and Republican crackpots who thought that globalist traitors and immigrants had corrupted the republic. 

But this changed in the Trump era, according to the Democratic data analyst David Shor. Beginning in 2016, social distrust became associated with support for the Republican Party. Which makes some sense. After all, Trump campaigned as an outsider who would take on a rigged system and cleanse America of supposedly untrustable elements through mass deportation. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, explicitly appealed to voters who believed that America was “already great” and that people of all stripes were “stronger together,” sentiments more congenial to Americans who trusted their government and compatriots. 

This trend continued in 2020, according to Shor, when Biden campaigned on, among other themes, the virtues of America’s existing political system and public health authorities. 

If Biden did in fact lose support among distrustful Americans over the past four years, then it would make sense for his share of young and nonwhite voters to decline. This is because young Americans consistently evince less social and political trust than older Americans, while Black and Hispanic voters express less than white ones.


Low social trust societies are on a path to failed society status, so I don't celebrate this development. But I can't argue that people are wrong to distrust institutions and to increasingly distrust large swathes of the population, especially in Blue cities. Watching your city crumble and become lawless has that effect. 

The shift toward Trump among these groups stems from the perception that society itself is crumbling--at least for ordinary people who can't insulate themselves from the institutional collapse and its consequences. That perception is correct, too, which is what is truly scary. 

Trump is seen as a corrective, or at least revenge on the malefactors. 

Trump isn't the cause of all this; he is the response. In a better world we wouldn't need Trump, people wouldn't be angry, and our institutions wouldn't be this corrupt. 

But here we are. 

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Jazz Shaw 10:00 PM | June 12, 2024