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How Whiteness Affected The Election

Donny Wadkins holds a US flag outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center as ballot counting in the presidential election continues inside in Philadelphia.
Donny Wadkins holds a US flag outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center as ballot counting in the presidential election continues inside in Philadelphia.

Joe Biden, with his running mate Kamala Harris, won the presidential election. And we’re learning more about who voted and who they supported. 

Exit polls aren’t completely exact, but they firmly places whiteness at the center of President Donald Trump’s base. According to The New York Times’ exit poll, 57 percent of white Americans voted for Trump, a number that barely budged from 2016. And Brookings reports that Democratic margins for  nonwhite voters appear to have shrunk.

But pundits, politicians and journalists almost never talk about the white vote and white voters in the way we’ve talked about Black voters or Latino voters.

Here’s what Code Switch’s Gene Demby said in a conversation about the white vote on All Things Considered:

But, you know, we in the media have a million euphemisms for the white vote. We have a lot of ways to say white without saying white. We say evangelical, soccer moms, suburban women, NASCAR dads, etc. Never mind that, you know, plenty of people of color overindex on things like church attendance or that, you know, the suburbs all over the country are becoming browner all the time. White is kind of implied in U.S. politics, and because it’s left implied, there tends to be this hyperfocus after elections on the way that nonwhite voters behave.

So right now we’re hearing a lot about Biden’s underperformance among Latino voters in Florida, for example, but far less about the fact that Trump won 60% of white voters in Florida. And white voters make up nearly two-thirds of the electorate in Florida this year, at least according to The New York Times. So Trump’s viability relies almost entirely on his consistently strong white support. But because we don’t talk about white people that way, we tend to focus on these sort of marginal shifts with people of color.

We explore the white vote and its impact on the 2020 election.

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