Stephen Ansolabehere and Charles Stewart III’s analysis in the Boston Review of Scott Brown’s Massachusetts victory contains many sobering points for Democrats. Brown gained on Obama everywhere in the state, and while minority turnout was low, a huge turnout wouldn’t have beaten him. But in tracing why a huge turnout wouldn’t have beaten him, the authors note in passing that a huge proportion of towns in the state are more than 95 percent white, and there are even a lot of precincts in Boston more than 85 percent white. This got me thinking: is Massachusetts an unusually white state?
Answer: hell yes. Non-Hispanic whites make up 79.2% of Massachusetts’ population, as opposed to 65.6% in the country as a whole.
I then wondered: are most of the eight states in which Republicans are predicting takeovers of Democratic Senate seats—namely Nevada, Colorado, Arkansas, North Dakota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Delaware—also abnormally white? Answer: also yes. Illinois has about the same racial composition as the country as a whole (having way more Latinos than most people think). Nevada is less white than the rest of the country. But the other six states are substantially whiter than the rest of the country. Five of those—all but Colorado—are at least ten percentage points whiter than the country.
Two points. First, the President’s attempt to re-energize his base could succeed and still not save Democrats in these particular states. Second: Harry Reid’s attempts to save his seat by appealing to Latinos through immigration reform have aroused a lot of attention and not a little Republican outrage. So why haven’t many “mainstream” political commentators pointed out that these other senate races could go Republican on the crest of an unrepresentative wave of white voters? Now, I realize that being white means that what one thinks and how one votes by definition have nothing to do with race. But still.
By the way: the state with the highest percentage of nonwhites is, of course, Hawaii.