August 6, 2017

Fake Analysis: WashPost’s Milbank Claims ‘There’s No Such Thing As a Trump Democrat

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank’s vicious, mean-spirited attacks on Donald Trump, Republicans, and conservatives have become so predictable and trite that they’re barely worthy of attention, no matter how shrill his rhetoric. The unhinged Milbank is of course entitled to his opinions, but in his latest column on Friday, he tried to promote an obvious falsehood as an indisputable fact, claiming in his column’s headline that “There’s no such thing as a Trump Democrat.”

As will be seen, there is no genuine basis for Milbank’s claim.

Here is his column’s opening:

There’s no such thing as a Trump Democrat

Do you believe in mermaids, unicorns and fairies?

If so, you may have taken interest in a new mythical creature that appeared during the 2016 election: the Trump Democrat.

It has become an article of faith that an unusually large number of people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012 switched sides and voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. It follows that Democrats, to win in the future, need to get these lost partisans to come home.

But new data, and an analysis by AFL-CIO political director Michael Podhorzer that he shared with me, puts all this into question. The number of Obama-to-Trump voters turns out to be smaller than thought. And those Obama voters who did switch to Trump were largely Republican voters to start with. The aberration wasn’t their votes for Trump but their votes for Obama.

Stop right there. Podhorzer shared his data and analysis with Milbank, but Milbank wouldn’t share it with his readers, or even link to it. Milbank only provided a link to Podhorzer’s bio at the AFL-CIO web site. There is no data or analysis available there, nor is there any hint of it at the group’s press release page.

Let’s look at the incredibly flimsy foundation on which Milbank’s claim is built. Its based on the core findings seen in the second paragraph below:

A poll released in June by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, a nonpartisan collaboration of analysts and scholars … re-interviewed the same respondents queried in 2012; they were asked who they voted for in real time.

(George Washington University political scientist John) Sides found that 86 percent of Obama 2012 voters voted for Clinton while nearly 89 percent of Romney voters supported Trump. Nine percent of Obama voters voted for Trump while 5 percent voted for a third-party candidate or a write-in, while 5 percent of Romney voters supported Clinton and 6 percent voted for a third-party candidate or write-in.

Sides tried to pretend that Clinton’s loss of one-seventh of Obama 2012 supporters compared to Trump only losing one of nine Romney 2012 supporters was no big deal — and further, that Trump picking up almost two-thirds of Obama defectors (9 points out of 14) compared to Clinton picking up less than half of Romney defectors (5 points out of 11) was also unimportant and, as described earlier in the study, “typical.”

That’s ridiculous. Those findings, with a slight offset for new 2016 voters who likely favored Clinton, almost completely explain the change between Obama’s 3.9 percent and Clinton’s 2.1 percent popular vote margins. In terms of state-by-state Electoral College results, these net switches explain why Trump could fight for and win Florida and the three “blue wall” states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) which gave him his electoral vote victory margin.

Then this supposedly nonpartisan organization proceeded to completely, and I would argue deliberately, mischaracterize the views of whites who switched from Obama to Trump:

White Party Switchers’ Votes Correlated with Views on Immigration, Muslims, and Black People

Sorry, Mr. Sides, your bias is showing. The three correlations are correctly explained as follows:

  • It wasn’t “immigration.” White party switchers’ views on illegal immigration are what mattered, especially in light of the Obama administration’s clear, in-your-face attempt to flood the nation with unvetted “refugees” and unaccompanied minor children.
  • It wasn’t “Muslims” per se. White party switchers’ views on the Obama administration’s coddling of violent, radical Islamists and the clear growth of radical Islam’s worldwide threat are what mattered.
  • Finally, it wasn’t “Black People.” It was Black Lives Matter, specifically that group’s wholesale embrace of violence, its hatred of law enforcement, and racial exclusion.

So what do you do when the data doesn’t tell you what you want to hear? If you’re Milbank, as seen in an earlier except, you claim that “Obama voters who did switch to Trump were largely Republican voters to start with.”

Again, that’s rubbish. All one has to do is look at results in three of Northeastern Ohio’s formerly bluest presidential-vote counties see how absurd that claim is.

Northeastern Ohio has voted solid-blue Democrat in presidential elections since the days of Bill Clinton. Here are the result from the past five presidential elections for Ashtabula, Trumbull, and Mahoning Counties in the Buckeye State’s northeastern corner (links: 2016, 2012, 2008, 2004, 2000):


It’s large-scale shifts such as these which explain why Ohio, thought to be a swing state in 2016, went for Trump by the largest Buckeye State presidential victory margin since George H.W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis in 1988. Similar shifts occurred in many other formerly blue presidential-vote counties in other parts of the nation.

To believe Milbank’s mush, one would have to believe that those who supported Gore, Kerry, and Obama  by mostly very large margins in the four presidential elections from 2000 to 2012 in these three counties as well as other Northeastern Ohio counties were really Republicans pretending to be Democrats. Further, one would have to believe that they voted in mostly overwhelming majorities as Democrats during all those years just to pull one over on Milbank, the AFL-CIO’s Podhorzer, and GW University’s John Sides.

What we really saw in these three counties is a massive shift of Democrats from previously acceptable presidential candidates within their own party to Donald Trump. Though there certainly were changes in party registration leading up to the 2016 primaries and general election, it is very fair to describe many Democrats who voted for Trump in 2016 as “Trump Democrats.”

It should be quite obvious that Dana Milbank and his supposedly learned sources engaged in embarrassingly fake analysis.

Cross-posted at



  1. Given the state of the DNC finances, IMO, Milbank is trying to telegraph to Democrat campaign donors that they actually do have a shot their campaign contributions will pay off IF they give to Democrats.

    I base that statement on the contention that the Democrat Party is NOT an ideology, it is a PR marketing firm who’s sole business model is to take in money from special interests to promote a product or idea. IF a special interest wants something they will pay the Democrat Party to promote it and enact it into law. And of course, they will have to pay a maintenance fee (donation) every year like Planned Parenthood does to continue that support indefinitely.

    The prime example of that I contend is Gay Marriage, BHO said all along he was against Gay Marriage until the 2012 election cycle when he flipped on the issue. Why? Common on, you know why… A huge pot of money became available to a desperate Democrat Party from the gay lobby. Pandering does pay.

    Milbank’s audience is not the general public, but the core customers of the Democrat Party…the donors.

    Comment by dscott — August 7, 2017 @ 3:40 pm

  2. Interesting points.

    Comment by Tom — August 7, 2017 @ 4:29 pm

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