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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Educational Polarization

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House. In Divided We Stand, we discuss how these divides played out in 2020.  

AT NYT,  Ezra Klein writes about the work of David Shor:

{E]ducational polarization has risen sharply in recent years, particularly among white voters. Democrats are winning more college-educated white voters and fewer non-college white voters, as pollster shorthand puts it, and Donald Trump supercharged this trend. There was a time when Democrats told themselves that this was a byproduct of becoming a more diverse party, as non-college white voters tend to be more racially reactionary. Then, in 2020, Democrats lost ground among Black and Latino voters, with the sharpest drops coming among non-college voters.
I want to stop here and say I believe, as does Shor, that educational polarization is serving here as a crude measure of class polarization. We tend to think of class as driven by income, but in terms of how it’s formed and practiced in America right now, education tracks facets that paychecks miss. A high school dropout who owns a successful pest extermination company in the Houston exurbs might have an income that looks a lot like a software engineer’s at Google, while an adjunct professor’s will look more like an apprentice plumber’s. But in terms of class experience — who they know, what they believe, where they’ve lived, what they watch, who they marry and how they vote, act and protest — the software engineer is more like the adjunct professor.

Either way, the sorting that educational polarization is picking up, inexact as the term may be, puts Democrats at a particular disadvantage in the Senate, as college-educated voters cluster in and around cities while non-college voters are heavily rural. This is why Shor believes Trump was good for the Republican Party, despite its losing the popular vote in 2016, the House in 2018 and the Senate and the presidency in 2020. “Sure, maybe he underperforms the generic Republican by whatever,” Shor said. “But he’s engineered a real and perhaps persistent bias in the Electoral College, and then when you get to the Senate, it’s so much worse.” As he put it, “Donald Trump enabled Republicans to win with a minority of the vote.”