Figures for the long count

Posted: Nov 16, 2000 12:00 AM
Whatever happens down Florida way, nothing will change the central finding, which is that the voting public is tied on the question: Republicans vs. Democrats. It is climactically important if the Electoral College favors one or the other candidate by a single vote; and to probe that, we need to suffer through the processes minute to minute and end up talking about the marginal vote in a single state.

But when that is done, we will be staring at the central data, which are that the popular edge by one party over the other (200,000 more votes for Gore) is negligible, a mere two-tenths of 1 percent of the votes cast. What is interesting is the parsing of that vote, and, thanks to the Voter News Service, we have the breakdown.

Question: What was the heaviest preponderance of the day?

Answer: Black Americans. They voted 90 (the figures denote percentages) for Gore, 8 for Bush.

Spinmanship is invited. The Democratic advocate will say that this vote is a true measure of the needs of the less educated, less affluent Americans for Democratic policies. But why the increasing polarization in the last four years? In 1996, Dole got 12 percent of the black voting bloc, 50 percent more than Bush got. How do we account for that, given that there is full employment and a higher incidence of black education at all levels? Was there a special rhetorical chord struck by Gore this time around?

Contrast the resolute black Democratic vote with the Hispanic vote. In 1996 it went Democratic, 72-21. This time there was Republican movement, 67-31. Does this suggest the Hispanics are headed for split divisions like the Catholics (49 Gore, 47 Bush), or is the GOP rise an aspect of the special appeal of Bush, evidenced by his heavy Hispanic support (49) when he ran for governor? Is there a way for the Republicans to tune their policy tickets in such a way as to increase their percentage of the vote?

After blacks, the next preponderantly Democratic vote was Jews', a whopping 79 percent to 19 percent. Any change visible? No, not really. In 1996 it was 78 to 16. Perot's voters back then (3) went now to the GOP. So what are the available spins on this showing?

(A) The Jewish Democrat will say: "We don't make a practice of talking about it. In fact, we make a practice of not talking about it. But the fact of the matter is that Jews are just plain brighter people -- look at how we do getting ours into places like Harvard and Yale. Being bright, we know what is best for the country, which is why we gave Gore 79 percent of the vote."

(B) The Jewish Republican will say: "The trouble with my people is precisely that they don't know is what is best for the country. Add this to their stubborn refusal to encourage GOP advances of the kind we hold dear to our hearts, like civil rights and equal rights and firm pro-Israel policies, and you get this ... embarrassing stick-in-the-mud uniformity which is -- and we don't say that either -- very dumb because it minimizes our influence. If the Dems can always count on us, what do they have to lose by offending us?"

On the question of education and political wisdom, the breakdown is once again interesting and paradoxical. The voters who graduated from college went more for the GOP (51) than for the Democrats (45; 3 went to Nader). Republican spinmasters don't mind at all the implications of that: Get a college education and learn enough to prefer the GOP!

What irritates is that those who go on to postgraduate education head out in the wrong direction (52 Democratic, 44 Republican). It is a strange circular voyage, because voters who didn't even graduate from high school are stoutly (59-39) Democratic. If we institute post-postgraduate training, voters who undertook it might find themselves as smart politically as those who didn't go on beyond grammar school.

The comfortable thesis that the rich go automatically to the GOP is once again shot full of holes. It is safe to say that there is a tendency in that direction, but they are, unlike blacks and Jews, in relatively level waters. Even among those who earn less than $15,000, there are GOP voters (37). When you reach incomes over $50,000, the Republicans are strong (52) but not overwhelming. And that margin of 52 climbs a mere 2 points for voters who make over $100,000. Forty-three percent of the very affluent voted Democratic, which raises the question, If you're so rich, why aren't you smart?