The big headline is that the California recall failed. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom gets to keep his job. He handily fought off the Republican challenge.
But there is a worrisome detail in the data, one that keeps showing up, one that Democrats would do well to deal with: Black and Latino men are not hewing as close to the party line as Black and Latina women.
There are, of course, issues with exit polls, and results often change as more votes are counted. But that said, the California exit polls do seem to reflect what polls have shown for some time now.
In CNN’s exit poll, nearly half of the Hispanic men surveyed and nearly a quarter of the Black men voted to support the recall. The largest difference between men and women of any racial group was between Black men and Black women.
Even if these numbers are later adjusted, the warning must still be registered.
For many of these men, saying Republicans are racist or attract racists or abide racists isn’t enough.
For one thing, never underestimate the communion among men, regardless of race. Men have privileges in society, and some are drawn to policies that elevate their privileges.
For instance, many Black and Hispanic men oppose abortion.
Some men liked the bravado of Donald Trump and chafed at the rise of the #MeToo movement. Some simply see trans women as men in dresses and want to carry guns wherever they want.
The question for Democrats is how do they lure some of these men back without catering to the patriarchy. From a position of principle, the party can’t really appeal to them; it must seek to change them.
Add to the patriarchal issues a sense of disillusionment with the Democratic Party and its inability to make meaningful changes on the issues that many of these men care most about, such as criminal justice reform and workplace competition. Democrats often resort to emotional appeals in election season, telling minorities that they must vote for liberal candidates as a defense, to prevent the worst. But many of these men believe that the Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans.
The idea of always playing defense and never offense is, well, offensive.
Instead, Democrats have to craft a message of empowerment and change. They have to say to these men that they don’t have to operate from a position of weakness and pleading, holding back the forces that would otherwise overwhelm them.
To be honest, a robust, offensive messaging campaign would resonate with all people who tend to vote Democratic — men and women.
The truth is that in a two-party system, voters have only two choices, so protest votes are self-defeating, as is sitting out elections or supporting the opposition to scare your favored side into better behavior.
In a two-party system, if you don’t want the Trump Republicans to win, you must vote Democratic. You are trapped in that way, and no one likes the feeling of being trapped.
But “trapped” is not an inspiring campaign message, particularly to people who spent a lifetime feeling trapped and have tired of it, as these men have.
Yelling at them isn’t going to work, neither is shaming them or thinking that you are “educating” them.
My fear is that these men will continue to drift away from the Democratic Party, not because the Republican Party is the most welcoming of spaces, but because Democrats cannot or will not do more to appeal to Black and Latino men.
To my mind, the Democratic Party must do a few things:
— Admit that it makes many promises to Black people in election seasons that it not only doesn’t accomplish, but sometimes doesn’t even take up.
— Acknowledge that many of these men feel that the system itself has failed them, that the status quo has failed them.
— Give the plight of Black and brown men the same prominence that both parties have given the plight of working-class white men.
Black and brown men need to feel that they are being seen as more than victims of a predatory justice system or part of the so-called immigrant crisis. They need to be rendered in full and seen as whole.
When they are not, it leaves an opening for Republicans to exploit, and conservatives have done a clever job of doing just that in recent elections.
If you are like me, you are thinking: These men should know better. They are voting in ways that invite injury or not voting at all. They shouldn’t be coddled. The world is sick of coddling selfish men.
But we, too, are stuck in this two-party system, and as such, we must do whatever it takes to prevent calamity and eke out progress.
In that world, when men of color vote against the interests of people of color and out of the male ego, we must gingerly talk them down rather than aggressively chant them down.