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Will angry white voters fuel the Democrats in the midterms? | Opinion

Republicans in key races are holding onto minorities that should, if the narrative of voting against hate were true, be torpedoing their campaigns.

As dusk falls, groups including "Sing Out Louise" of New York City, front in pink, and Herndon Reston Indivisible, of northern Virginia, protest the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, outside of the White House in Washington.
As dusk falls, groups including "Sing Out Louise" of New York City, front in pink, and Herndon Reston Indivisible, of northern Virginia, protest the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, outside of the White House in Washington.Read moreJACQUELYN MARTIN / AP

The media narrative of the 2016 election goes like this: Trump was propelled to victory by angry white voters who struck back after eight years under our first black president. The Trump administration is antiblack and xenophobic to its core. President Trump embodies "hate," and the best way to stand up to hate – and who wouldn't want to? – is to turn out, in droves, for the Democrats in 2018.

This is a rallying cry I hear when I turn on CNN and MSNBC, when I read Vox and HuffPo and Slate, and when I scroll through my social feeds, where my progressive friends – who are mostly upper-middle class, highly educated, and white – are fired up and ready to vote.

And yet, in state after state, and poll after poll, Republicans in key races are holding onto minorities who should, if this narrative were true, be torpedoing their campaigns.

The antihate narrative is simple. The polling of Latinos is not. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott is giving incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson the run of his life in a must-win Senate race for Democrats. His success comes, as Politico reports, from deep inroads he's made with Latino voters, "a core group of voters [Nelson] needs to carry by bigger margins."

Elsewhere in the Sunshine State, Republicans are running feisty campaigns in majority-minority districts they should have no business competing in. Incumbent Republican Carlos Curbelo looks set to squeak out victory in his heavily pro-Clinton South Miami district. In the next district over, a Democrat looking to capture the open seat has run into an "anti-Castro buzz saw," with disdain for socialism running high just as the American left rushes to embrace the ideology. Spare a thought, self-avowed socialists of America, for the huge influx of Venezuelans and Nicaraguans fleeing leftist strongmen who may determine the fate of these seats.

The story is the same in Texas, Arizona, and Nevada, where Republicans will likely prevail – and even make gains in the Senate – if they can hold on to enough Latino votes.

The question of black voters is, unfortunately for Republican candidates, one of turnout rather than partisan split, since the GOP has utterly failed to appeal to the black community with a respectful and effective message. Democrats can expect the lion's share of black votes, and probably increased turnout from prior midterm cycles. But it's worth remembering that Trump's approval ratings among black voters – now in the low-20s – are better than those of the average Republican candidate, and a roaring economy that has lifted all boats is disproportionately helping working people of color.

On the cultural issues that animate the progressive base, cries of "believe all women" from the Democrats of the Senate Judiciary Committee may have actually alienated black voters, or so reported progressive journalist Jemele Hill, who, while profiling black men's reactions to Judge Kavanaugh, "expected to hear frustration that the sexual-assault allegations against him had failed to derail [him]… Instead, I encountered sympathy."

And Asian Americans, rapidly growing in numbers and clout, are key to Democratic hopes for flipping a half-dozen Republican-held House seats in Southern California. But Democrats cannot expect their indefinite allegiance, especially with the Trump administration taking on the pernicious and flagrant practice of racial quotas at elite colleges that prevent Asian applicants from getting their fair shake. Partisans of all stripes should be paying close attention to the Department of Justice lawsuit, and Republicans could look to capitalize on these efforts to level the playing field.

No, it will be white people, disproportionately highly educated, and mostly women, who will rush to the polls and try to flip the House for the Democrats this year. This group provides the fuel for Democratic hopes in the suburban districts around our most cosmopolitan cities, including outside of Philadelphia.

If 2016 was the revenge of blue-collar white voters, 2018 will be the counterattack of the other white voters: educated, urbane, and incensed. They hate "hate" – but they might be unaware that not every voter defines this word the same way. They are leading the charge in the 2018 elections. But will anybody be following?

Albert Eisenberg is a Philadelphia-based political consultant who has worked on LGBT and urban issues from the right. @Albydelphia