“Mr. Trump’s All-White Nostalgia Movement”: It’s Demographic Panic, Not Economic Panic, That’s Driving His Rise
And in a sense, Trump is right. He is building a movement, of sorts, but not the kind that will help grow the Republican Party.
While Trump has won a record number of primary votes, he hasn’t done that by creating new Republican voters. Instead, he’s pulled GOP general election voters into the primaries by exciting white male voters like few candidates since Ronald Reagan.
That’s why, despite his historically bad numbers with non-white voters—more than three in four Hispanics and nearly nine in ten African-Americans don’t like him—Trump has been closing in on Hillary Clinton in national polls and in statewide surveys too, particularly when the white vote share is bumped up as it was in Quinnipiac’s Ohio and Pennsylvania polls presuming a whiter electorate in those states in 2016 than in 2012.
Trump leads Clinton 52 percent to 36 percent among whites overall in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll; a figure driven by his 11-point lead with seniors, his nine-point advantage with men, and his five-point advantage with independents. And while the latter three figures are not broken down by race, Trump’s terrible ratings with nonwhite voters make it clear what lies beneath the top lines.
With Trump’s campaign, America has arrived at a moment that would be familiar in Europe, where ethno-nationalistic parties have surged in countries like France, Belgium and Austria, particularly as the crisis in Syria has driven Arab refugees onto the continent. In the U.S., the drivers of ethno-nationalism are different, but they are similarly related to the jarring impact of demographic change.
The exit polls from nearly two-dozen Republican primaries have yielded lots of data about who the Trump voters are, and the findings belie the myth that their anger is grounded in economic want. In fact, while they have lower incomes than Republicans who supported candidates like Marco Rubio or John Kasich, Trump voters are far from broke—their $72,000 average household income is will above the American average of is $56,000.
They are, instead, more like the profile of Tea Party voters; mostly 45 years of age and older, middle class, and a mix of non-college and some-college educated men and a smaller number of women who believe the country is dangerously off track.
Robert P. Jones of the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute has done extensive research into the “why” of the Trump rebellion, and it turns out to have more to do with demographic panic than economic panic.
Sixty-eight percent of Trump supporters believe American culture has become too “soft and feminine”; two-thirds say it bugs them when they engage with an immigrant who doesn’t speak English (just 46 percent of Cruz voters said the same), and nearly half worry about themselves or their families becoming victims of a terrorist attack. Nearly six in ten Trump voters believe the federal government has paid too much attention to the plight of black and other nonwhite groups (vs. nearly four in ten Cruz supporters). And Trump voters overwhelmingly support banning Muslims from the U.S., while a plurality believe Islam is incompatible with American values.
According to PRRI, a majority of Trump supporters agree with the statements that America was better off 50 years ago—when white, Christian men were culturally ascendant, before “women’s lib” and the big victories of the Civil Rights Movement, before busing and affirmative action and the liberalizing immigration actions of the federal government in 1965 and 1986.
Jones calls these voters, who are overwhelmingly white Protestant Christians, “nostalgia voters.” They are nostalgic for the America they believe existed before the tumult of the 1960s; when a white working class man could hold down a blue-collar job and take care of his family, with a secure job for life and a wife who stayed at home, kids who could go to an affordable college, and a retirement padded with a decent pension. Because that is not the America non-white Americans knew, they by and large feel more hopeful about the future, grounded in the knowledge that the country has come far enough to elect a black president.
But for nostalgic Trumpians, who a RAND Corporation March survey found express a sense of “personal powerlessness,” more than any other single trait, the future looks bleak indeed.
That’s why it doesn’t matter what outrageous things Trump says or does. His most fervent supporters want someone who looks and sounds like them but who has the charisma and personal economic clout to shake things up on their behalf. They want someone who makes both a series of connected promises (a wall across the southern border that Mexico is somehow forced to pay for, a ban on Muslim migrants, and no more nation building in the Middle East), and a central one: to put people like them back on top, both here and around the world. With “Mr. Trump” in charge, they figure, the world will look at the U.S. with awe and fear again, and in a way; that means the world will look at them that way, too.
The trouble for the GOP is that for all the passion and fervor of the Trump moment, there simply aren’t enough of these voters left in the population for them to easily have their way. Unlike in midterm elections, when voters of color typically opt out, if turnout rates remain as they have over the last 20 years of presidential election cycles, it will be tough for him to grow his “Trump bump” of around 46 percent today, to above the 50 percent threshold.
Especially since white voters are themselves split, with a plurality continuing to side with Democrats on economic and cultural matters, from union support to the minimum wage to a more liberal view of economics, immigration and culture. Trump may well match or even exceed Mitt Romney’s 59 percent white vote share in 2012, but he’ll likely need something more like Ronald Reagan’s never-since-equaled 66 percent in 1984 to overcome what could be an historic deficit with voters of color, who Pew Research estimates will comprise 30 percent of the electorate this year.
If Trump can do that, it will be a revolution indeed.
By: Joy-Ann Reid, The Daily Beast, May 24, 2016
“Do You Endorse Him Or Not?”: Memo To Republicans; If You Endorse Trump, You’re Destroying Your Career
This is not a fun time to be a Republican politician. Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee of the party, you have a choice to make: Do you endorse him or not? The answer should be pretty clear: You don’t.
But before I explain why, let’s first look at the three big reasons you might feel compelled to.
1. He’s the party’s nominee, and that’s what you do. Well, sure. But that’s not a universal rule. And shouldn’t you want to be known as a politician who puts principle over party?
2. The fear of a “stabbed in the back” narrative. If you’re an establishment Republican, you probably believe that Trump is doomed, but that if you turn on him, Trump supporters will blame you for stabbing him in the back. Maybe you fear the rank-and-file will take their revenge or even just stay home in future elections. But this is nonsense. If Trump loses, his insane hardcore supporters are certain to blame anybody but Trump, and especially that amorphous beast known as “the establishment.” Meanwhile, if you want Trump voters to vote Republican, maybe a good idea is, instead of tricking them, propose policies and ideas that support their interests? Crazy, I know.
3. Trump himself. Maybe you’re afraid he’ll call you names and try to get back at you in some way. I get why that’s tough. But you have to look at the other side of the ledger.
Endorsing Trump means having to defend every ridiculous thing that comes out of his mouth. Including ordering the military to commit war crimes. Including maybe nuking people just because he feels like it. Including playing footsie with the KKK. Including defaulting on the U.S. debt. All day, every day.
Maybe you think you can finesse it, by saying something like “I endorse him, but I don’t support everything he says.” Come on. Nobody will buy that. An endorsement is an endorsement. Everybody understands that not every Republican who endorsed Mitt Romney agreed with him about every issue (I certainly didn’t). The reason they didn’t ask those questions is because there were no issues where he deviated from the Republican norm too much, or indeed from the bounds of civilized discourse. As the proudly #NeverTrump Republican strategist Rick Wilson put it, when you endorse Trump, “you permanently inherit Trump’s problems without his invulnerability to them.”
Here’s the thing. Donald Trump will humiliate you. He can’t help it. He did it to Chris Christie. He did it to Ben Carson. (Remember that time Ben Carson defended Trump’s comparing him to a child molester?) He does it to his wives!
And here’s another aspect: You get absolutely nothing out of it. Donald Trump doesn’t need you; he has the nomination. And even if he did, it’s not like Mr. Art of the Deal ever respected a deal in his entire life. If he thinks he’ll need you, he might promise you a lot of things, but there’s no guarantee he’ll keep his end of the bargain. What’s the point of being appointed secretary of everything if you work for an insane maniac and will probably get booted out or will resign in disgrace and/or frustration after three months? But before we even get there, what’s the point of endorsing him in exchange of the secretary of everything position, when you know he promised that job to three other people before breakfast?
Meanwhile, you all but guarantee that whatever election you’re in next after Trump, every ad against you, in both the primary and the general, will feature Trump’s most outrageous statements next to your name and face. His liberal statements for the primary, and his xenophobic, pro-KKK comments for the general. Oh boy, doesn’t that sound great?
After Trump, the political winds he unleashed will not abate, but his personality and brand will remain toxic to everyone except 15 to 20 percent of the country. People who are too closely associated with that brand will suffer the consequences. And meanwhile those who did oppose Trump, and who represent the majority of the party, are putting names into a black book.
In other words, endorsing Trump is a proposition where you have nothing to win and everything to lose. And, hey, I’m not saying you should go full #NeverTrump if your district voted heavily for Trump. Just lay low for a while. Say that you can’t personally support either major party nominee and you’re not telling anybody what to do.
By: Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Week, May 17, 2016
The New York Times published a rather brutal piece over the weekend on Donald Trump’s problematic history with women. It painted a painful picture:
The New York Times interviewed dozens of women who had worked with or for Mr. Trump over the past four decades, in the worlds of real estate, modeling and pageants; women who had dated him or interacted with him socially; and women and men who had closely observed his conduct since his adolescence. In all, more than 50 interviews were conducted over the course of six weeks.
Their accounts – many relayed here in their own words – reveal unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct, according to the interviews, as well as court records and written recollections. The interactions occurred in his offices at Trump Tower, at his homes, at construction sites and backstage at beauty pageants. They appeared to be fleeting, unimportant moments to him, but they left lasting impressions on the women who experienced them.
The article, according to a spokesperson for the Times, is the most read political story the newspaper has published in 2016.
In response to the piece, we’ve seen some curious reactions from women close to the Republican candidate. His spokesperson, Katrina Pierson, said yesterday, for example, “Women know Donald Trump is a very successful businessperson. He’s raised a wonderful family. His own wife endorsed him for president.”
In a separate interview, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, said, “I’m not in every interaction my father has, but he’s not a groper.”
And Melania Trump, the candidate’s third wife, added in a different interview, “We know the truth. He’s not Hitler.”
So, let’s review. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has an alarming history with women, but (a) he’s not a genocidal groper; and (b) he’s capable of picking up a campaign endorsement from his own wife.
Maybe, when looking for a national leader, Americans may look for a presidential candidate who can clear a higher bar, but this is nevertheless where things stand in the 2016 race.
As for the embarrassment this may cause Trump’s party, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus argued over the weekend, in reference to a question about the Times article, “I’ve got to tell you, I think that all these stories that come out – and they come out every couple weeks – people just don’t care.”
Well, Republican primary voters didn’t seem to care, but the national electorate may bring a very different perspective to the table.
Postscript: One of the notable parts of the Times article highlighted an anecdote in which Trump asked Brook Antoinette Mahealani Lee, Miss Universe at the time, for her opinion about his daughter’s body.
” ‘Don’t you think my daughter’s hot? She’s hot, right?’ ” Lee recalled him saying. ‘I was like, ‘Really?’ That’s just weird. She was 16. That’s creepy.”
Olivia Nuzzi explained why Trump may have said something like this: “Trump says creepy things about Ivanka being hot because, to him, hot is the most valuable thing a woman can be. It’s not about wanting to sleep with his daughter. It’s about his daughter’s worth and, by extension, his own worth.”
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 18, 2016
“Everywhere And Nowhere”: Trump Is Waging An Assault On The Entire Structure Of Our Democracy. Now What?
Donald Trump and Paul Ryan had their much-anticipated meeting on this morning, and while Ryan did not endorse Trump (yet), they issued a joint statement talking about their “many areas of common ground.” Speaking afterward to reporters, Ryan said, “It was important that we discussed our differences that we have, but it was also important that we discuss the core principles that tie us together,” and that “Going forward we’re going to go a little deeper in the policy weeds to make sure we have a better understanding of one another.”
This is a fool’s errand, not just for Ryan but for us in the media as well. And it poses a profound challenge to democracy itself.
Just in the last couple of days, something has changed. Perhaps it should have been evident to us before, but for whatever reason it was only partially clear. The pieces were there, but they didn’t fit together to show us how comprehensive Trump’s assault on the fundamentals of American politics truly is.
And that has left the media — whose job it is to report what’s happening and describe it to the citizenry in a coherent way that enables them to make a reasonable decision — at loose ends. We simply don’t know how to cover a candidate like this. We need to figure it out, and quickly.
The foundation of democratic debate is policy, issues, the choices we make about what we as a nation should do. That’s what the government we create does on our behalf: it confronts problems, decides between alternatives, and pursues them. That’s also the foundation of how we in the press report on politics. Yes, we spend a lot of time talking about the personalities involved, but underneath that are competing ideas about what should be done. Should we raise taxes or lower them? Spend more or spend less? Make abortions easier or harder to get? Give more people health coverage or fewer? How do we combat ISIS? How should we address climate change? How can we improve the economy? How can we reduce crime? What sort of transportation system do we want? Which areas should government involve itself in, and which should it stay out of?
We all presume that these questions (and a thousand more) are important, and that the people who run for office should take them seriously. We assume they’ll tell us where they stand, we’ll decide what we think of what they’ve said, and eventually we’ll be able to make an informed choice about who should be the leader of our country.
Donald Trump has taken these presumptions and torn them to pieces, then spat on them and laughed. And so far we seem to have no idea what to do about it.
Let me briefly give an illustration. On the question of the minimum wage, Trump has previously said he would not raise it. Then Sunday he said he did want to raise it. Then in a separate interview on the very same day he said there should be no federal minimum wage at all, that instead we should “Let the states decide.” Then yesterday he said he does want to increase the federal minimum wage.
So when you ask the question, “Where does Donald Trump stand on the minimum wage?”, the answer is: everywhere and nowhere. He has nothing resembling a position, because what he said today has no relationship to what he said yesterday or what he’ll say tomorrow. And we’re seeing it again and again. Will he release his tax returns? Yes, but then no, but then yes and no. Does he want to cut taxes for the wealthy? His plan says yes, his mouth sort of says no, but who knows? What about his promise for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” that so thrilled his supporters? Now he says it’s “only a suggestion.”
We assume that with an appropriately tough and smart interview, one or more of us in the media will eventually pin Trump down on any particular issue, and then we’ll have our answer and he can be judged accordingly. But that won’t happen.
So because we don’t know what else to do, we’re trying to hold him to the standards we use for every other candidate: what does he propose, and how reasonable are those proposals? For instance, Politico attempted to take a serious look at Trump’s policy statements, and concluded that “Trump bounces across the political spectrum,” but “Many of his proposals are either unrealistic in terms of executive power or would run into a brick wall with Congress, making a Trump administration borderline impotent on the very issues that are driving his supporters to the polls.”
We should give them credit for trying, but the problem is that if you want to evaluate Trump’s positions, you can only do so based on what they’ve been up until the moment you’re making the judgment. But if he gets asked about the same issues tomorrow, the odds that he’ll take the same position are essentially random, like a coin flip.
The problem isn’t that Trump’s positions don’t add up to a coherent ideology along the liberal-conservative spectrum, it’s that you can’t even call them “positions,” because you can never be sure which of them he’ll hold next week, much less if he eventually becomes president.
And remember, that’s really the point of the campaign: to figure out what kind of president each of the contenders would be. There’s always some measure of uncertainty, since we don’t know exactly what crises the next president will confront or what kind of manager he or she would be. But with every other person who ran this year, an informed observer could tell you 90 percent of what they would do if they eventually became president. You might love or hate Hillary Clinton, but we can all come to at least a basic agreement about the policies she’ll pursue. At this point, can anybody say what Trump would do as president? About anything?
It’s important to be clear that Trump isn’t just a “flip-flopper.” When that charge has been leveled in the past, whether against a Democrat or Republican, it was because they had one position (or set of positions) and then changed them. Even if the critique was animated by the concern that they might change again in the future, at any given moment you knew where they stood. You might judge them too opportunistic, or like their previous position more than their current one. But there was a progression and a logic to where they stood, and the assumption was that whatever their position was, they’d act on it.
This is the way we’ve tried to explain Trump, assuming that there’s some kind of linear progression to what he says about issues: he was in one place appealing to primary voters, and there are things he might change to appeal to general election voters. But it’s clear now that that was a mistake, because that’s now how this works with him.
That leaves us unable to talk about Trump and issues in the way we normally would. And this is a serious problem. The basic issue divides between the parties comprise one of the key foundations on which we build our explanations of politics. They structure the arguments and the contest for power, they give meaning to the whole game. They’re the reason all of this silliness matters, because at the end of it we’ll be choosing a new government, led by one individual who will make choices that affect all of us in profound ways.
It’s clear now that Donald Trump may be unique in American history — not just in his inexperience, not just in his ignorance, not just in his bombast, and not just in his crypto-fascist appeal. He’s unique in that he doesn’t care in the least about the the things that politics and government are all about, and he won’t even bother to pretend he does. I’ll confess that I don’t know where this leaves us in the media, and how we should approach his candidacy from this point forward in order to help the public understand it. But that may be the most important question we need to answer right now.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 12, 2016
Most partisans would probably tell you that while their own party’s leaders sometimes get a fact wrong here or there, the other side is a bunch of blatant liars, whose contempt for the truth leaves the public in a perpetual cloud of misinformation. We don’t have to settle who’s right on this question to acknowledge that in politics, there are ordinary tale-tellers and then there’s Donald Trump. As he has in so many ways, Trump has upended the usual operation of politics by refusing to play by its rules, written or not.
The presumption that politicians should at least try to speak the truth as often as they can is something most everyone shares, whether Democrats, Republicans, or the news media that cover them. It’s that presumption that establishes a basic set of behaviors for all concerned—for instance, that news media will call out lies from politicians when they notice them, that the politicians will try to avoid getting caught in lies, and that when they do, they’ll avoid repeating the lie lest they be tagged forevermore as dishonest.
So what do you do when a candidate makes it clear that not only does he not care about the truth, he doesn’t care whether everybody knows it? This is the dilemma of covering Donald Trump.
Trump is distinctive in more than one way. First, there’s the sheer breadth and character of his falsehoods. Absurd exaggerations, mischaracterizations of his own past, distortions about his opponents, descriptions of events that never occurred, inventions personal and political, foreign and domestic, Trump does it all (you can peruse Politifact’s Trump file if you doubt).
In this, he differs from other candidates, who usually have had one distinctive area of dishonesty that characterized them. Some hid things they were embarrassed about or thought would damage them politically, some deceived about their personal histories in order to paint a flattering picture of themselves, and others spun a web of falsehood to gain the public’s assent for policies they suspected might not otherwise gain public support. But there has simply never been a candidate who has lied as frequently, as blatantly, and as blithely as Trump.
Then there’s the fact that even when Trump gets caught lying, he keeps on repeating the lie. How often does he say that The Art of the Deal is “the number one best-selling business book of all time”? (It isn’t.) How many times did he claim that thousands of Muslim Americans gathered on rooftops in New Jersey to cheer the collapse of the World Trade Center, no matter how often he was told it never happened? He has said over and over that he was a vocal opponent of the Iraq War before it began, despite the fact that it’s utterly false. This is one of his most spectacular fabrications, because he even claims that “I was visited by people from the White House asking me to sort of, could I be silenced because I seem to get a disproportionate amount of publicity.” Although we know he got no publicity for his fictional opposition to the Iraq War because people have checked and he didn’t, I have to admit that I can’t prove definitively that the Bush administration never sent a delegation to plead with Trump to stop his nonexistent criticism of the war. But the idea is so preposterous that no sane person could believe it. And that was before he charged that Ted Cruz’s father was an associate of Lee Harvey Oswald and may have had something to do with the Kennedy assassination.
Unfortunately, as Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler notes, “Trump makes Four-Pinocchio statements over and over again, even though fact checkers have demonstrated them to be false. … But, astonishingly, television hosts rarely challenge Trump when he makes a claim that already has been found to be false.” Just yesterday on Meet the Press, Trump claimed that he wants to change the voting system so that undocumented immigrants will no longer be allowed to cast ballots; a visibly shocked Chuck Todd said, “Well, of course. That is the law as it stands already.” To which Trump replied, “No, it’s not. I mean, you have places where people just walk in and vote.” Todd moved on. Trump also said “We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world,” another falsehood he often repeats, and which Todd wasn’t quick enough to catch.
So does Trump’s antagonistic relationship with the truth matter? It depends what we mean when we ask the question. It certainly didn’t hurt him in the primaries. Perhaps that’s because of the overwhelming force of his personality, or perhaps it’s because Republican voters have been told for years that anything the news media tell them is by definition poisoned by liberal bias, so why bother listening to some fact-checker? Trump’s supporters may be particularly unconcerned about what’s true and what isn’t; they were more likely than supporters of Ted Cruz or John Kasich to believe in a wide range of conspiracy theories, among other things.
But like Trump’s support more broadly, what didn’t hurt him in the primaries did hurt him with the general electorate. Trump may have triumphed in the GOP contest, but along the way he acquired unfavorable ratings in the 60s, and one poll found only 27 percent of Americans rating him as honest and trustworthy.
But the electoral effects of Trump’s blizzard of baloney are only part of the story; we also have to ask what his untruthfulness tells us about the kind of president he’d be. Unfortunately, we in the media don’t always go about assessing honesty in ways that help voters understand its implications for the presidency. For instance, in 2000, George W. Bush was portrayed as a man who, though a bit dim, was positively brimming with homespun integrity. Only a few observers noted that Bush regularly dissembled about his record as governor of Texas and the content of his policy proposals, which suggested that even if he might be faithful to his wife, as president he might not be honest about matters of policy. And he wasn’t, with some rather serious consequences. His predecessor, on the other hand, saw all kinds of questions of honesty raised about him during the 1992 campaign. And it turned out that like Bush, Bill Clinton’s prior behavior provided a good preview of what he’d do in the White House: As a candidate he tried to cover up his extramarital affairs, and as a president he, guess what, tried to cover up an extramarital affair.
In Trump’s case, though, his whoppers are so wide-ranging that it’s almost impossible to find a topic area about which he wouldn’t dissemble. He lies to foment hatred against minority groups. He lies about the condition of the country. He lies about what his opponents have said or done. He lies about his own past. It’s hard to foresee that a President Trump would act any differently than candidate Trump does, and what would it mean if no one could trust anything the president tells them?
People who live in dictatorships with a captive press often assume that whatever the government says is bogus by definition. Needless to say, that kind of relationship between the government and the governed is not conducive to popular legitimacy or any kind of problem-solving that requires public involvement. With Donald Trump in the White House offering a daily delivery of fibs and fabrications, it isn’t hard to imagine that the public would conclude that the government is nothing more than a second-rate reality show, worthy of little attention or regard. Imagine what he could get away with then.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, May 8, 2016