Thank You White People for Electing Obama in 2012!

 President Obama at a campaign event in Concord, N.H., shortly before the 2012 election. He performed better among white Northern voters than is generally assumed. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama at a campaign event in Concord, N.H., shortly before the 2012 election. He performed better among white Northern voters than is generally assumed. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

New Orleans   In the age of big data, one of the clear lessons, is that we need to be very, very careful about what we think we know, at least until we have asked all the right questions rather than just swallowing the headlines whole without examining the bottom lines. What am I talking about, you might ask? Well, how in the heck with all of the megadomes out there in the political world can we have undercounted white people? White people of all people! What were they? Were they translucent or something, like white walkers, and the quants and bean counters looked right past them because they looked like themselves in the mirror or what?

The New York Times statisticians dropped the bombshell on us that Trump wasn’t looking quite as bad while running a racist campaign, because there are more white people out there in the electorate than any of these folks had been reporting for years. Not only that but the all-important narrative about the Obama victory in 2012 was, well, how can we say this, wrong! Turns out Obama was rocking the white vote better than previously understood.

Here’s the new story, and maybe the true story,

“…new data from the census, voter registration files, polls and the finalized results tells a subtly different story of the 2012 election with potential consequences for the 2016 election. The data implies that Mr. Obama was not as weak among white voters as typically believed. He fared better than his predecessors among white voters outside the South. Demographic shifts weren’t so important: He would have been re-elected even with an electorate as old and white as it was in 2004. Latino voters did not put Mr. Obama over the top, as many argued in the days after Mr. Obama’s re-election. He would have won even if he had done as poorly among Latino voters as John Kerry.”

Of course Latino-based organizations and all of us who support them and work with them had a stake in the story that it was Hispanic votes that propelled Obama to victory in 2012, so spin or substance be damned, someone did a very good job on this for the last four years, and it mattered, true or not. What leverage would we have had talking about doing a big, fat thank you to all of the old, white people stepping up for Obama? Not that we won immigration reform, and not that the story won’t change in the future as demographic trends continue to move towards more, not less, diversity and dilute the white vote, but it wasn’t there in 2012, and it might not be in 2016.

Why did we get the news so late? What’s up, is this the same as Andrew Jackson, Jean Lafitte, and the gang fighting and winning the Battle of New Orleans after peace had already been signed in Paris? Hasn’t communication changed? Well, it seems that most of this incomplete narrative was based on exit polls, and the other data is stronger and better, but it’s not available the night of the election and the day after. We’re so committed to speed and “premature certainty,” that we would rather believe we know it all immediately and go from there, than wait until all of the information is sliced and diced.

What’s the lesson we need to take away for today? Talk to every white person you know! Tell them thanks for 2012, but we need them to do it again in 2016 as well, because if they couldn’t handle Romney then, they sure as heck don’t want to live through four years with King Trump trying to rule the country.

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