Super Tuesday Analysis

This story appears in the Election 2016 feature series. View the full series.

by Michael Sean Winters

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Anger continues to drive the Republican race and continues to not drive the Democratic contest. That is the key takeaway from yesterday’s results in Super Tuesday voting.

Donald Trump continued his march to the Republican nomination last night, winning Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. Look at that list for a moment. In the North and in the South, among suburbanites and rural voters, among evangelicals and "nones," Trump won everywhere and among all types of Republicans. In Virginia, which is the lone battleground state in the general election, Trump bested his rivals in every county, from the D.C. suburbs to the rural southwestern parts of the state.

Even in Texas, where Sen. Ted Cruz won his Senate seat four years ago with 56 percent of the vote, the Donald kept Cruz from winning an outright majority. Cruz, who also won in neighboring Oklahoma, lives to fight another day but he needed to sweep the South if he wanted to maintain any pretence at having a shot of beating Trump, and he didn’t. He did, however, for a couple more weeks at least, keep the anti-Trump vote split among several candidates.

Sen. Marco Rubio continues to deliver concession speeches that sound like victory speeches. Last night, when he spoke to supporters, he had not yet been declared the winner in Minnesota. Why didn’t he do better in a state like Virginia or Massachusetts? He is trailing in his home state of Florida, which votes in two weeks’ time, and if he fails to win there, expect him to drop out too. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is looking for some wins when the primaries turn to the large Midwestern states, and he came close in Vermont last night. Most of those later contests will be winner-take-all, but it will be too little, too late to stop the Trump steamroller. Ben Carson continues his book tour pretending to be a presidential campaign.

Even if all the other candidates folded and, in an effort to stop Trump, united behind a single candidate, I don’t think it would work at this point. Any elaborate effort to deny Trump the nomination if he has more delegates than all others, but not quite a majority, risks angering him so much that he would run as an independent. More likely, he will enter the convention with a majority of the delegates and next July, in Cleveland, he and his team will be orchestrating the convention into a four day Trump extravaganza. I can’t wait!!!

On the Democratic side, the contest is all but over as well.

Sanders needed to win Colorado and Minnesota and to maintain any credible claim to having a real shot, he needed to win them big. Colorado held a caucus, in which the candidate with more enthusiastic voters has an edge and it has socially progressive views. I suspect its voters are more economically conservative and entrepreneurial than some traditional liberal bastions and, just so, less responsive to the big government message Sanders is peddling. Minnesota is a state that would seem a natural for someone like Sanders: It once sent Paul Wellstone to the Senate and, before him, liberal lions like Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey. He won both states, as well as his home state of Vermont and Oklahoma, and he won them by a wide margin, but in none of those states did we see the promised "revolution" of new voters: Turnout on the Democratic side continues to lag behind what it was in 2008.

Massachusetts is, well, Massachusetts, a place where liberals rule a state that should have been tailor-made for Sanders, who represents neighboring Vermont. But, Hillary Clinton scored her one big win north of the Mason-Dixon line in the Bay State, winning both wealthy enclaves like Lexington and Cambridge and working class towns like Lowell and Fall River.     

In the South, people who remain Democrats are probably pretty liberal also, but in the South, Sanders’ inability to win among African-Americans again manifested itself, as it did the previous week in South Carolina. I agree with Trinity College’s Mark Silk that the reason Sanders bombs with black voters and support Hillary overwhelmingly is her facility with religious language and venues and his unwillingness to make a detailed moral argument. "I suspect that Hillary's strength with African-Americans and older women has at least something to do with her religiosity," says Professor Silk. "At the core of her being, she's an old-time Methodist church lady -- hardworking, humorless, and self-righteous in a way that expresses the Methodist conviction that God's grace sanctifies."

Virginia is the "new South" and it is, as mentioned, one of the few battlegrounds in November among the states that voted yesterday. Clinton’s win there, and it was convincing, beating Sanders by over 200,000 votes, points to the fact that she is becoming the inheritor of the Obama coalition. Obama won the Old Dominion twice. That said, Clinton seems unable to convincingly win among the white working class voters who have been increasingly fertile ground for the Republicans and are the core of Trump’s support. Minnesota is different from other large Midwestern states, but more like them than the states Clinton won, and her loss there should raise red flags for her campaign. As a state like Virginia moves more and more into the blue column, it is important for the Democrats not to lose Midwestern states to the red column.

Democrat leaders have been unwilling to ask themselves why they keep losing white working class voters: The party is led by people who really do not share the values of many working-class people. Working-class people do cling to our religion and the party leaders make us sound like misogynists because we think a child at twenty weeks should not be aborted for no good reason, or they have made us feel like bigots because we think there is a difference between the genders and, yes, we think the culture of political correctness has gone too far when common sense solutions for issues like transgender bathrooms in schools are ruled out of bounds, or they imply we are racists because we don’t think it is necessary to remove reminders of Woodrow Wilson’s from Princeton because he was a racist. Cultural elites too often do not know how demeaning their judgment seems to someone who does not share their enthusiasm for cultural upheaval.

Doubt it? Read the piece in The New York Times yesterday by Amy Chozick and Patrick Healy in which they detailed the fact that it is dawning on Team Hillary that Trump has struck a nerve. Their response? Paint Trump as a bigot and a misogynist. We are told that Clinton’s SuperPACs are already doing research on outrageous things Trump as said in the past. Couldn’t they buy the research at a discount from Jeb Bush? And, they might ask why it will work for them when it didn’t work for Bush.

I have a better idea: Send Clinton and her team for a week of briefings from Robert Putnam, whose work studies those both parties have left behind, and or Sr. Donna Markham at Catholic Charities, where they cope with those who fall through the cracks of an economy that has many cracks or from Dr. Meghan Clark who can explain Catholic Social Teaching. The Democrats have lost the white working class because we have embraced economic policies that have harmed them and social policies with which they disagree.

Now, I believe that Trump will fare very poorly in a general election, but that should not make Democrats think they can take the year off. They need to figure out how to win both presidential cycles and midterm cycles, without which they will continue to cede control of many state legislatures and governor’s mansions, to say nothing of Congress, to the Republicans. They need to listen to white working-class voters and stop insulting them, no matter how badly EMILY’s List or the Human Rights Campaign Fund wants those insults hurled. Surely, plenty of special interest groups have learned the price that is paid when you get trounced in a midterm election. The GOP may have gone over the cliff with Trump this year, but both parties face enormous difficulties and I do not see anything stirring in Clinton’s camp that would lead me to think they understand the need to become a governing party again.

A final note: Speaking of winners, I should like to acknowledge two sets of winners the past week, the writers at Millennial who filled in for me and the readers at Distinctly Catholic who were able to see young Catholic minds wrestling with the issues and giving us all great hope for the future. Thank you especially to Robert Christian, editor of Millennial, who organized the effort.

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