- Jul 2013
The differences among 2008, 2012, and 2016 can basically be attributed to relative turnout and, to a lesser extent, to voters who switched in 2016 from voting Democrat to voting Republican. I mean, you've essentially said this before, if memory serves. And you were correct.One need not be a blatant white supremacist activist in order to cast a vote that was motivated by racism. Most racists wouldn't stand out in a crowd. They keep their bigoted thoughts close to the vest while in public, and only discuss their racism with other people who are known by them to share their racist bigotry.
Turnout for the Democrats was depressed in 2016 because: a lot of folks were not inspired by Hillary the way they were by Obama; a significant number of folks were convinced that Hillary was going to win easily and therefore didn't see a need to vote at all or were content to cast a symbolic vote for a third-party candidate; a not-insignificant number of potential Democratic voters were influenced by anti-Hillary propaganda -- she conspired with the DNC to steal the nomination from Bernie, she betrayed the brave victims of Benghazi, she carelessly gave up all sorts of state secrets on her "illegal" private email server, she (and Bill) hated Obama after 2008 and was no real friend to Black America; she was a ball-busting lesbian bitch who had ridden her whole life on Bill Clinton's coattails, she sexually molested children in a pizza parlor basement in order to extract life-extending glandular extracts from her victims, whatever.
Some voters switched their votes in 2016 because of, yes, economic anxiety. They didn't feel that much better off after eight years of a Democratic administration and so thought they might as well give the Republicans a turn. Trump made lots of crude promises about looking after them and their interests. That had an appeal. Some of that appeal was based in what had become in the previous several decades an uncharacteristically blatant embrace of nationalist and racist tropes.
And yes, that embrace of naked tribalism boosted the turnout -- and visibility -- of out-and-out racists and ethno-nationalists and rallied them to Trump's banner in a way that no recent Presidential candidate had been able to do. That played a part as well.
All of these things are to some degree interrelated in a lot of people's minds, eh? There's no single cause that's the sole reason in itself why things turned out as they did in 2016. But here we are. No one thing is responsible, but nothing is irrelevant either.