Members Only | December 12, 2022 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

Midterms showed once again the difference between Democrats and Republicans is over race

Maybe the Republicans are out of touch.

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Democrats lose because they abandoned the working class. 

Pundits and politicians have repeated that since 2016. The Democrats are, supposedly, kale-eating coastal-urban elites who focus on culture war issues and alienate meat-and-potatoes, Boss-listening heartland Americans. That’s why liberals lose.

Trump and the Republicans appeal not to those in dire economic straits, but those anxious about the erosion of racial privilege and status.

The liberals, though, just won the Senate run-off in Georgia, capping a historic midterm victory in 2022, which followed a 2020 presidential victory, which followed a 2018 blue wave blowout.

Maybe the Republicans are out of touch.

The least and the most
Election data shows Democratic fortunes rising and falling with low-income voters. But Democrats lead with this demographic. 

Moreover, the starkest differences between the Democrats and the Republicans continues to be race and age, not socioeconomic class.

In 2012, Barack Obama won voters earning under $50,000 by 22 points. Hillary Clinton in 2016 only won them by 11. Biden improved that slightly in 2020. He won voters under $50,000 by 12 points.

Biden made significant middle-class gains, though. Trump beat Clinton with voters earning $50,000 to $99,999 by four points. Biden beat Trump with them by 13 points, 17 points better than Clinton. 

Though the Democrats did remarkably well for a midterm this year, their numbers still eroded from 2020. They won voters earning under $50,000, 52 to 45 percent. But they lost voters earning $50,000 to $99,999 by 45 percent to 52 percent, according to NBC.


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Republicans did best, as they always do, with the wealthiest. They won those with more than $200,000 income by 58 percent to 41 percent. 

Those with the most money vote for Republicans. 

Those with the least vote for Democrats.

It’s race, stupid
Education complicated the picture.

The Republicans tend to do better with non-college educated voters. In 2022, they won them 55 to 43 percent while the Democrats won voters with college graduates, 54 to 44 percent. That’s an improvement for Republicans. In 2020, it was 50 to 48 percent.

A Post report pointed out that Trump in 2016 did well with non-college educated voters, but these voters tended to have relatively high incomes. In other words, Republicans have particular strength with people who are high-earning and lack college degrees. 

Many are white. They inherited businesses or wealth. Trump and the Republicans appeal not to those in dire economic straits, but those anxious about the erosion of racial privilege and status. In fact, the most striking difference between Democrats and Republicans?

Race. 

The big demographic surprise
In 2022, the Republicans won white voters 58 to 40 percent. The Democrats won non-white voters 68 to 30 percent.

That’s right in line with 2016 when the Republicans won white voters by 58 to 37 percent, and with 2020, 58 to 41 percent.

The contrast with Black voters is dramatic.


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The Democrats won them in 2022 by 86 to 13 percent – almost identical to 2020 when Biden won them 87 percent to 12 percent.

The big demographic surprise this year for Democrats was young voters. Voters under 30 made up about 12 percent of the electorate, which is consistent with their turnout in past years.  

However, Democrats won voters under 30 by 28 points, up from 26 points in 2020. It’s up even more substantially from 2016 when Clinton won 18-24 year olds by 21 points and 25-29 year olds by 14. 

The Democrats did especially well with young women, who were probably inspired by opposition to the Supreme Court’s anti-abortion Dobbs decision. Fully 72 percent of women 18-29 voted for Democrats in House races. In a key Pennsylvania Senate race, Democrat John Fetterman won 77 percent of young women.

The strong youth vote for the Democrats reflects in part that younger voters are more diverse than older ones. As of 2019, less than half of children under 15 are white. That’s ominous for the GOP, which relies on running up the numbers with white voters.

Working people are important to any coalition, and the Democrats’ support of working people hasn’t been consistent. Even so, GOP support for working people is nonexistent. They’ve blocked minimum wage bills; unified to support an increase in child poverty. Their one consistent principle is fighting to keep billionaire taxes low

No wonder people with low incomes vote against them.

No wonder young people consistently vote against them. 

Who’s facing disaster?
Pundits warn that Democrats face disaster if they don’t do better for working people, but Republicans have lost three elections in a row. They need to support working-class policies and stop assaulting women, Black people and LGBT people, or face generational loss. 

The Republicans have never been the party of the working-class. But if they don’t work to appeal to mainstream voters, they may soon be the party of aging wealthy white men. That is not a winning coalition.


Noah Berlatsky writes about the political economy for the Editorial Board. He lives in Chicago. Find him @nberlat.

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