the national interest

Salon Writer Condemns Arithmetic As Racist

Teach the controversy. Photo: Ron T. Ennis/MCT/Getty Images

Wendy Davis made herself a progressive champion by running as an outspoken progressive in a really conservative state, with the predictable result that she lost really, really badly. Salon’s Jenny Kutner, a strong Davis supporter, concedes that Davis did, in fact, lose. What Kutner refuses to concede is that Davis lost among women:

The Tribune cited CNN exit polls to illustrate the landslide, saying Abbott “beat Davis by lopsided margins with white voters (72-27), men (65-34) and women (52-47). Davis beat Abbott among Latinos (57-42) and African-Americans (93-7).” Last time I checked, though, there were thousands upon thousands of women in Texas considered Latina and African-American — what about their votes?

As RH Reality Check’s Andrea Grimes reports, their votes were solidly in Davis’ favor: 94 percent of black women and 61 percent of Latinas voted for her. Only 32 percent of white women did. That’s certainly not enough women to say that Abbott won the whole gender [emphasis added]

It’s … not? My admittedly crude method of answering the question “Did Greg Abbott or Wendy Davis win the female vote” would be to compare the number of women who voted for Abbott with the number of women who voted for Davis, and define the larger number as the winner.

No way, says Kutner, citing Andrea Grimes, who likewise argues that it is racist to credit Abbott with winning the women’s vote merely because more women voted for him than his opponent:

You’ll hear that Greg Abbott “carried” women voters in Texas. Anyone who says that is also saying this: that Black women and Latinas are not “women,” and that carrying white women is enough to make the blanket statement that Abbott carried all women. That women generally failed to vote for Wendy Davis. As if women of color are some separate entity, some mysterious other, some bizarre demographic of not-women.

Nobody is saying the votes of women of color don’t count. Everybody’s vote counts for one vote. I am comfortable stating that Barack Obama won the women’s vote in 2012, even though he lost white women.

Kutner calls this method “the erasure of votes from women of color.” Well, no. Being outvoted is not erasure. Until somebody develops a new, less racist way of comparing the value of two numbers, people are going to define the winner of a group as the candidate with more votes.