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Byron York Keeps Digging

Byron York has responded to the criticism of his column on the “white-black divide” of presidential support by (yawn) crying that he’s been accused of racism.

I wrote that citing Obama’s “sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are” … Maybe “across-the-board” would have been better than “overall,” but I doubt that would have kept a left-wing activist like Matthew Yglesias, or Andrew Sullivan, who has himself been accused of racism and, quite recently, anti-Semitism, from branding me a racist.

York doesn’t seem to realize that “actually are” was just as problematic, but let’s ignore his drive-by accusations of two people who haven’t written themselves into a mini-controversy this week.

My question was why York was engaging in the occasional conservative habit of asking what a Democratic politician’s support would be like if there were no blacks in the equation, something that is usually done after an election to talk down the Democrat’s electoral mandate. You heard a lot of this after November 2008, with conservatives arguing that black voters’ racial solidarity pushed President Obama over the finish line, and that they were “the real racists,” unlike white voters who had been accused for months of possibly lying to pollsters about whether they’d support Obama. York’s answer:

What if a president were wildly popular with one group, and only middlingly popular with another group and yet was often portrayed as being hugely popular with the whole group? It seems worthwhile to point that out that there are differences within the group — something that is done all the time with political polls.

It’s done all the time because politicians are always trying to expand their margins with various members of their base. It’s rarely done to argue that one group’s extreme support shouldn’t count, because that’s moronic.

It’s the old joke: Six people are in a bar. They’re all middle class; their average net worth is about $100,000. Bill Gates walks in. Seven people are in a bar; their average net worth is in the billions. A wealthy group, right? Internal numbers are revealing.

That’s actually the way that Fox Business Channel views the economy (GDP is up, therefore everyone is richer and has higher wages) but it’s a foolish way of viewing a political poll. Public opinion isn’t about what the average person thinks, but about whether a majority can be cobbled together out of a group of people to push the Congress to make a decision or to re-eleect a politician. If you have one group of actors you can count on, you try and build up your support with other groups. This is what, for example, Mississippi Republicans do as a result of their low support with the state’s large black population — they try to win black votes on the margins and maximize the white vote.

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