Bad Chart Thursday: The Unbearable Whiteness of Being a Trump Voter

Did you know that people of color are responsible for electing Trump? It’s true . . . if you lump people of color with white women.

Just as falling out of chairs is a leading cause of death in the U.S. when grouped with cancer. Beanbags should clearly be mandatory.

This blatantly misleading logic is the conclusion of yet another election rehash “think” piece, which EVERYONE has been clamoring for . . . if we define “everyone” as a few people stuck going round and round on the wheels they’re grinding their axes on.

And the ax in this case is not in the hands of a Trump supporter, as you might expect. It’s being wielded from the Left, in yet another “won’t someone think of the white man?” defense of Trump voters: “Women and people of color make up the majority of the Trump coalition,” by Matt Bruenig.

You might already have a sense of where Bruenig is coming from just by reading the title, in which “women” is separate from “people of color,” even though “people of color” includes women as well. That “women” refers only to “white women” is apparently implied, yet another example of white people being considered the “norm,” while everyone else is separately specified.

In Bruenig’s article, the chart itself isn’t the problem. In fact, the chart is pretty much the only part of the article that isn’t. Bruenig found it on CNN’s exit polls page, which includes various tables breaking down demographic characteristics of voters in the 2016 elections based on Edison polling data.

table of voters, by race and gender
Source: CNN/Edison

Well, okay, the chart does have one problem. The far-left column does not clearly label what the percentages mean. Those are each the percentage of total voters each group represents. This is particularly useful in understanding that, say, 25% of Latina voters voting for Trump only comes out to about 1.5 percentage points of Trump’s total 46.21 (total as of exit polling—his final percentage was 46.4%) because it refers to 25% of the 6% of voters who are Latina. Taking this a step further, 1.5 percentage points is 3.25% of Trump’s total percentage of the vote (46.21%).

For comparison, white men make up 45.62% of Trump’s voters, and white women make up 41.64%. Trump received only 12.75% of his votes from people of color of all genders. And that is still lumping all races and genders together except for white people, who are separated by race and further subdivided by gender.

Clearly, white men are the largest group of Trump voters, with white women not far behind. Just one gender of white people makes up a much larger percentage of Trump voters than people of all genders and all other races combined.

But sure, if you just lump together everyone who is not a white man, then more of those “other people” (from the perspective of a white man) voted for Trump than white men did—less than 10% more, which is a remarkably slim margin when comparing one demographic voting group to ALL the others in the U.S.

Still, from the perspective of a left-leaning white man who treats everyone else as background characters, this calculus would no doubt be a comforting excuse to avoid having to address the role racism played in electing Trump as well as a convenient excuse to avoid confronting the racism on the Left and in himself.

Of course, this comforting excuse is not a legitimate one. Dishonest poll interpretation aside, a candidate who acts and speaks in racist ways is still racist even if people of color vote for him. Likewise, Trump’s misogyny didn’t suddenly disappear with the Magical White Woman vote.

But the sheer dishonesty itself illustrates the lengths some people will go to in trying to protect their own interests at the expense of others, even when the two aren’t mutually exclusive. The Left can address class issues as well as racism, misogyny, and other forms of bigotry and systemic discrimination. The much-maligned “identity politics” is not in conflict with developing a plan to help poor and working-class Americans, including—just not catering to—white men.

Identity politics did not in fact cause the Left to lose the presidential election. In fact, identity politics was a key winning strategy for Trump—white identity politics. Pretending people of color are responsible for the election of Trump—either through voting for him or by somehow causing the white backlash by asserting their own rights—is just white identity politics for the Left, a form of the white supremacy emboldened by Trump, just in different packaging. Articles like Bruenig’s show how convoluted the sales pitch has to be so that we can pretend we’re not racist when buying it, but it’s a bait and switch all the same.

Melanie Mallon

Melanie is a freelance editor and writer living in a small town outside Minneapolis with her husband, two kids, dog, and two cats. When not making fun of bad charts or running the Uncensorship Project, she spends her time wrangling commas, making colon jokes, and putting out random dumpster fires. You can find her on Twitter as @MelMall, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

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  1. What about people who went from voting for Obama twice to voting for Trump? Any racists would’ve left the Democratic Party, I don’t know, during that whole Nixon/Reagan era? I know it’s discomforting that White Jesus lost, but still…(And no, I am still not convinced that putting a woman, like Hillary Clinton or, I don’t know, Marine Le Pen, in charge of a country makes for a government more sympathetic to the downtrodden just because she’s a woman; that’s no different than fedora-clad Redditors saying everything will be fixed once we get rid of religion. Hell, one Clintonista told me personally that the worst thing about the UN rape scandal was that it would give international cooperation a bad name, which is going from fedora to straight-up MRA talk.)

    FWIW, most of the people on the Clinton campaign struck me as racist against all the other minorities. (They were probably still as racist against black people as they were in 2008, but better at hiding it.) Consider Trump “going off the reservation” the tip of the iceberg.

    Not only were they racist, but they were regionalist. Their attitude toward large swaths of the country was little different from the Great Leap Forward or the Holodomor. Do you really think me so naïve as to think their eugenic ideas would only hurt white people, or so sociopathic that that’s still acceptable?

    1. That’s just it. People on the Left too often are using the in-your-face racism of Trump and supporters as a way to avoid confronting the racism in themselves and on the Left, a combination of “Now THAT’s racist” finger pointing (as though that means they aren’t racist) and blaming people of color for racism–for causing the backlash by speaking out against racism, or by purportedly making identity politics more important than other issues (as though political choices about other issues can’t be made independently or, gasp, in conjunction with the issues of marginalized communities). These tactics from the Left are bad enough without this Bruenig dude twisting himself into knots to blame people of color for Trump (white women ARE largely to blame, so no argument with him on that score) and to continue this “white men are the victims” narrative, once again prioritizing white people’s concerns. It’s especially aggravating to see these arguments (STILL) couched in terms of the election when more than ever, we need to be focused on people’s needs as people, not as political strategy.

      I get that political strategy is necessary to get things done, and I get the function of post-mortems, but when the discussion is focused on scapegoating and strategy that seems bent on avoiding our own culpability in racism, misogyny, homophobia, classism, etc., and preserving the status quo (particularly white supremacy), the discussion distances us from each other as humans (guaranteeing the cycle of “isms” will continue) and gets us all further away from working together to solve this country’s problems.

      1. Thanks. Yeah, the biggest problem was, I mean, if you were on Daily Kos last year, you would see just how much gaslighting the Clinton people were involved in. And even after Clinton lost, there are still a few deadenders saying the future of the Democratic Party is in the South, and when we object that Clinton actually lost two Southern states that Obama won, they say we’re just emotionally attached to the Rust Belt, like back in the 80s when they themselves had insisted Carter was proof Dems could still win the South. (Which, you know, undermines their whole argument. Sort of a reverse circular reasoning, “~p therefore p”.)

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