The defeat of the Republican plan to overhaul President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act last week offered a stark reminder about how much coalitions, persuasion and raw self-interest matter in politics. President Donald Trump failed to persuade almost anyone to join his side, there was no coalition for reform and the health care law’s benefits for millions of Americans made it in their self-interest to oppose a plan that would have reduced access to health care.
I’m glad that bill failed, but it’s hard to miss how education reformers are making the same strategic mistakes in their approach to politics.
In the 2016 election a few characteristics were key drivers of voting behavior. Two that stand out are educational attainment and where someone lives. Hillary Clinton won college educated voters by four points, according to exit polls, and improved on Obama’s 2012 performance with this demographic by eight points. Among those with postgraduate education, she won 58-37, also an eight-point improvement on Obama’s performance against Mitt Romney. For his part, Trump won rural voters in a 62–34 landslide, and every political analyst now has a nifty shorthand on how a voter’s physical distance from a Starbucks, Uber or Whole Foods predicted their vote.
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