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What inspired the Massachusetts vote for Trump?

Melvin B. Miller

Massachusetts is a very blue state. In fact, it is considered to be one of the national outposts of progressive politics. This is a reputation established by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and is certainly sustained by the present senior Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The red states of the Old Southern Confederacy are looked down upon as backwaters of bigotry. It was something of a shock, therefore, that Donald Trump did so well in Massachusetts in the March 1 presidential primary.

The polls indicated that Trump would win, but he tallied the most lopsided victory of any primary thus far with 49.3 percent of the vote. John Kasich came in second with a mere 18.0 percent. The only other Trump victory that was close to that margin was the March 8 primary in Mississippi, where Trump tallied 47.3 percent. The size of the Trump victory suggests that Massachusetts has a more serious racial problem than many believe.

The largest group of voters in the state is independents, who total 53 percent of the electorate with 2,277,760 enrolled. They can choose between Democratic and Republican ballots in a primary election. Trump totaled 311,313 of the 614,663 Republican votes cast. Since there are only 468,298 registered Republicans in the state, clearly many independents chose Republican ballots.

Some liberals had suggested that independents ought to vote for Trump to help him win because he would be an easier target for the Democratic nominee in the November election. There is no way to measure how many votes were cast with that in mind, but it is reasonable to conclude there were not too many because of the close race between the Democratic candidates. Hillary Clinton tallied only 50.1 percent of the vote to beat Bernie Sanders.

According to the New York Times, Trump does well in areas where there is substantial race conflict. He also seems to be strong among Catholics. It is hoped that the religious preference is at play in Massachusetts rather than racial hostility. The state’s population is 74.3 percent white, and the relatively small population of racial minorities is as follows: Hispanic — 10.8 percent; black — 8.3 percent; and Asian — 6.3 percent.

Nonetheless, policymakers should be alert to any indication of potential racial difficulties so that they can be alleviated before they grow to crisis stature.