As I speculated previously, now that the media’s obsession with Trump-mania has been interrupted by actual news, “the Donald” continues to fall in the polls. It’s not that Trump has changed his tune. He continues to say inflammatory and ignorant things. But with the Pope’s visit, Boehner’s resignation (followed by the chaos that’s about to ensue in the House leadership elections), and the shooting in Oregon, we actually have some other things to talk about.
And so it’s interesting to note that, just as all that is happening, John Judis writes what is likely to become the definitive description of Trump supporters. Referring to a 1976 book by Donald Warren, he calls them Middle American Radicals (MARS).
“MARS are distinct in the depth of their feeling that the middle class has been seriously neglected,” Warren wrote. They saw “government as favoring both the rich and the poor simultaneously.”
I would simply note that it would be a more accurate description of MARS if we added one word: “MARS are distinct in the depth of their feeling that the white middle class has been seriously neglected.” Also, since the 1970’s we have increasingly made the distinction between blue collar and white collar middle class – the former being what we refer to as “working class,” who are the heart of the MARS demographic.
Judis suggests that these are the voters who supported candidates in the past like George Wallace, Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan. Where this is especially helpful in understanding the MARS voters of today is that Judis explains the ingredients that contribute to a burst of Middle American Radicalism: (1) “a widespread sense of national decline,” (2) “pronounced distrust of leadership in Washington,” and (3) a leader to play the catalyzing role.
What many have been noting for a while now (including me) is that the conservative sense of national decline is fueled by the fact that the white male patriarchy is dying – both as a domestic force and around the world. The fact that our President is African American and their Republican leaders have failed to stop him has inflamed their sense of distrust in Washington. Along comes Donald Trump to tap into all of that.
But when it comes to the candidacy of Trump, here is where Judis provides some optimism: MARS voters tend to make up 20% of the electorate and 30-35% of Republicans. That reality is demonstrated by this chart from a recent Pew poll (note: they polled registered voters rather than likely voters, which is probably wise this far out of a general election). Trump’s support peaks with non-college educated voters who make less than $40,000.
What’s also interesting to note is that the number of registered voters who are undecided at this point is about 25%. Among those who have decided, support for Rubio and Fiorina peak among college educated voters who make $75,000 or more. That tends to support what I’ve said previously about “Goldwater Republicans.”
The wild card in all this are the Carson supporters – who are pretty evenly dispersed (except for the fact that he gets less support among those who make less than $40,000). If there comes a time that Carson overtakes Trump in the polls (as he did recently in an IDB/TIPP poll), he will likely come under more scrutiny by the media and other Republican candidates. That’s when we’ll learn whether or not he has staying power or is the 2016 version of Herman Cain (my money is on the latter).
By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 6, 2015
“No Experience Necessary”: A Cycle In Which ‘The Base’ Isn’t Buying Anti-Washington Rhetoric From Senators Or Governors
My editor at TPM asked me to take a look yesterday at the historical precedents for so many candidates with no experience in elected office managing to run non-trivial presidential campaigns at the same time. And indeed, I can’t immediately find any precedent for three such candidates in a single cycle. As noted in my column, Trump, Carson and Fiorina registered a total of 42% support in the post-debate Fox News national poll of the GOP presidential nomination contest. Add in Ted Cruz, whose brief service in the U.S. Senate has mostly been devoted to attacking his colleagues, and you’ve got a clear majority preferring as little experience as possible.
Past “non-politician” candidates for president mostly had an abundance of other forms of public service. The last president without a prior elected position was the epitome: Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was on the public payroll most of his life, and was noted among generals more for his political acumen than his military skills. 2008 candidate Wes Clark was from the same mold. 2000 candidate Liddy Dole had served in two Cabinet positions, and was married to the ultimate Congressional Insider.
Steve Forbes and Herman Cain were entirely innocent of public office, like today’s trio. But they didn’t appear in the same cycle.
In writing my column, I added up the elected experience of the other 14 candidates in the ’16 GOP field, and came up with 144 years. That’s a lot of experience. But the only candidate who seems to be putting a lot of emphasis on how much experience he has is Rick Santorum, who is going nowhere fast.
Of the three novices, Carly Fiorina is the most unique historically insofar as she really has no great successes to boast of in the private or public sectors. Yes, she was by some accounts the first woman to head up one of the world’s largest corporations, but by even more accounts she ran HP into the ground and then used her golden parachute to run a notably unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign. Other than that, she’s good at getting appointed to the advisory committees of Republican presidential nominees–both McCain and Romney–and has the kind of communications skills you’d expect from someone used to doing Power Point presentations at shareholder meetings.
As I’ve discussed here often, there’s a big reason Fiorina has been largely bullet-proof despite her dubious resume; her gender makes her a very valuable party asset in a cycle where it’s still largely assumed Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. But you’d have to say she’s also benefiting from the same strange climate that has made Trump the GOP front-runner (in the polls at least) and Carson a grassroots favorite. Decades of attacks on the public sector combined with decades of broken promises by Republican pols have produced a cycle in which “the base” isn’t buying anti-Washington rhetoric from senators (other than perhaps the systematically irresponsible Cruz) or even governors. Maybe one of the experienced candidates with Establishment backing–you know, those who together are pulling a small minority of the vote in the polls–will eventually be the nominee. But said Establishment and the pundits and political scientists who view it as all-powerful need to take a long look at the dynamics of this nominating contest.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 19, 2015
“Trump’s Got The GOP By The Balls”: Trump Has The Power To Elect Clinton, And Both He And Priebus Know It
Deflating as it is, the likely Donald Trump scenario is this: He burns hot for a little while longer; he says something really out there in the first debate that roils up the base but makes Reince Priebus and Karl Rove break out in canker sores; but by the time of the baseball playoffs maybe, his act gets old, and somebody else becomes the Herman Cain of October. Then, next year, the primaries will start, and he’ll have to get votes. He’s not going to be all that competitive in Iowa, so it’s New Hampshire where he’ll need to deliver something. And if he doesn’t, he’ll just go away.
That’s the pattern anyway. I seem to recall that at this point in 2011, Michele Bachmann had a pretty good head of steam going. So maybe we shouldn’t get too overheated about him.
But Trump is different from Bachmann, and even from fellow entrepreneur Cain, in one major respect: He doesn’t give a crap about the Republican Party. He cares about Trump. And don’t forget he has the power singlehandedly to make Hillary Clinton president. He knows it, and you better believe Priebus knows it, and it is this fact that establishes a power dynamic between Trump and the GOP in which Trump totally has the upper hand and can make mischief in the party for months.
How does he have the power to elect Clinton all by himself? By running as an independent. Two factors usually prevent candidates who lose nominations from running as independents. One, they lack the enormous amount of money needed to pursue that path (pay the lawyers to get them on 50 state ballots, etc.). Two, they have a sense of proportion and decency, and they figure that if primary voters rejected them, it’s time to go home.
Well, Trump has the dough and lacks the decency. In an interview this week with Byron York, he left the door open a crack to such a candidacy. And that would be all it would take. Given his fame and name recognition, he’d likely hit the polling threshold needed to qualify for the fall debates. And with that kind of exposure, he’d do well—enough. All he needs to get is 5 percent of the vote in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado, and the Republican, whoever it is, is sizzled. Another electoral landslide.
The question is would he, and the answer is who knows? To York, he expressed awareness of the obvious drawbacks, pointing to the spoiler role he says Ross Perot played in 1992: “I think every single vote that went to Ross Perot came from [George H.W.] Bush…Virtually every one of his 19 percentage points came from the Republicans. If Ross Perot didn’t run, you have never heard of Bill Clinton.” He is—shocker—wrong about this, but what matters for present purposes is that he believes it, so maybe that means he wouldn’t follow through.
But he is an unpredictable fellow. Suppose Priebus and the GOP piss him off in some way, and he thinks the hell with these losers. Suppose he decides—and don’t doubt the importance of this—that an independent run would be good for the Trump brand in the long run. And suppose he doesn’t actually mind so much the idea of Hillary Clinton being president. We already know he retains a soft spot for old Bill. And he donated to Hillary Clinton’s senatorial campaign.
All that’s speculative. But even in the here and now this dynamic has consequences. It means the GOP can’t afford to offend Trump. This is why Priebus’s spokesman characterized the chairman’s Wednesday evening phone chat with Trump as “very respectful.”
And it’s why the other candidates’ criticisms of him have been a little, ah, restrained. Politicians aren’t always real smart about any number of things, but one thing in my experience that they almost always have a very keen sense of is risk. Members of Congress, for example, generally know exactly what percentage of their electorate they’re going to sacrifice by casting X vote. Jeb Bush’s Trump criticisms are muted because he has a lot to lose by offending Trump and his supporters. Chris Christie, who’s little more than an asterisk in the polls, has less to lose, so he’s willing to be a bit more blunt. Same goes for Rick Perry.
We’ll see if Trump has developed that politician’s sense of risk. If he goes too far, one or certainly two more equivalents of “Mexican rapists,” it’ll be open season on him. He’s at a point of maximum leverage right now, and if he wants to stay there, he’s got to tuck it in about 10 or 15 percent and start employing the kind of racialized euphemisms that are not only tolerated but celebrated within the Republican Party—build the damn fence, no amnesty, Al Qaeda is storming the mainland through Obama’s porous border, etc. That way, he’ll hang around. And he’ll build enough of a following that the threat of a viable independent candidacy remains a real one. And that is Trump’s trump card. And it makes Reince Priebus a very nervous man.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Dail Beast, July 10, 2015
“Trump Proves GOP Proclamations Of Mortal Affront Untrue”: He’s Only Repeating What His Party’s Has Been Saying All Along
In 2006, then-Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce advocated the return of a 1954 program for the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants. It was called “Operation Wetback.”
In 2010, Sen. David Vitter, Republican from Louisiana, released a campaign ad that depicted a bunch of seedy-looking Mexicans, some with gang bandannas, slipping through a hole in a border fence to invade America.
In 2011, Rep. Mo Brooks, Republican from Alabama, said of undocumented immigrants: “I will do anything short of shooting them” to make them stop “taking jobs from American citizens.”
That same year, Republican presidential contender Herman Cain vowed to build an electrified border fence that would shock Mexicans who sought to slip into the country.
In 2013, Rep. Steve King, Republican from Iowa, said that for every illegal immigrant who becomes a valedictorian, there are another hundred with “calves the size of cantaloupes” because they are drug mules.
Yet the party is shocked and offended by what Donald Trump said? Jeb Bush calls his recent comments on undocumented Mexican immigrants “extraordinarily ugly”? Sen. Marco Rubio finds them “not just offensive and inaccurate, but also divisive”? A major donor tells the Associated Press Trump should be excluded from the debates?
Beg pardon, but there is something rather precious in all this ostentatious umbrage. If you didn’t know better, you might forget that the GOP has sought votes for years by stoking fear and anger toward Mexicans who enter this country illegally. If you weren’t paying attention, you might not know that various Republican officials and pundits routinely characterize those people — most of them just dirt poor and trying to put bread on the table — as a disease-ridden invasion force of drug smugglers and gang members, not to mention pregnant women splashing across the Rio Grande in order to drop so-called “anchor babies” on U.S. soil.
This is not to say Trump’s words were not ugly. They were. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said. “…They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems [to] us. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.”
But ugly as it was, Trump’s xenophobia broke no new ground. So you have to wonder at the pious denunciations it is generating. You’re tempted to say people are reacting like this because Trump was blunter than we are used to. On the other hand, there is nothing particularly subtle or ambiguous about threatening to shock Mexicans. Maybe folks weren’t paying attention before.
It’s worth noting that Trump’s comments came as he announced his intention to run for President of the United States, a nation whose last census found about 32 million of us identifying as Mexican-American (some, presumably, good people). Indeed, Mexican-Americans are far and away the largest group under the umbrella rubric “Hispanic.” All the Cuban-, Puerto Rican-, Argentinean-, and Spanish-Americans combined don’t equal the number of Mexican-Americans in this country. So when the GOP talks about “Hispanic” outreach, it is, in a very real sense, talking Mexican-American outreach. Yet this “outreach” seems always to be overshadowed by insult.
The party seems not to realize that you can’t have it both ways, can’t insult people, then ask them to vote for you. How telling is it that, even as party elders assure us his remarks don’t represent the GOP, Trump vaults to second place in the polling of Republican contenders? It’s a truth that gives the lie to these proclamations of mortal affront.
It’s hypocritical and unfair to put all this on Trump. He only repeated what his party’s been saying all along.
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, July 8, 2015
“Ben Carson Is In Danger Of Losing All Respect”: He Can Only Lose In This Campaign, And More Than Just The Republican Primary
Over decades of a brilliant career as a brain surgeon, Dr. Ben Carson attracted legions of admirers — black, white and brown; liberal, moderate and conservative; fundamentalist Christian and agnostic. His story is the stuff of legend, the awe-inspiring tale of a poor black boy in Detroit who overcame daunting obstacles and vaulted to the very top of his profession.
Given that his profession was pediatric neurosurgery, black Americans were particularly proud. Carson, who was the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins attached at the head, stood as stark repudiation of invidious stereotypes about black intellectual capacity. His memoir, Gifted Hands, has been passed through countless black households.
But the good doctor’s foray into Republican presidential politics threatens to become his epitaph, to overshadow — perhaps even to overwhelm — his academic and surgical accomplishments. He will likely be remembered as the GOP’s latest black mascot, a court jester, a minstrel show. He’ll be the Herman Cain of 2016.
Clearly, Carson’s chances of winning the Republican nomination for president stand at less than zero. No matter how many cheers he attracts at conservative gabfests, no matter how many of his bumperstickers appear on the vehicles of true believers, no matter how many Fox News pundits suggest he’s a viable candidate, he won’t come close to becoming the GOP standard bearer.
Nor should he. He is dangerously unqualified for the presidency — a political novice who is happily ignorant of policy, both foreign and domestic, and contemptuous of religious pluralism and personal liberties.
Carson catapulted to stardom in the ultraconservative firmament in 2013, when he addressed the National Prayer Breakfast with a speech in which he lashed out at the Affordable Care Act as President Obama sat nearby. Though the breakfast has a long history of nonpartisanship, Carson chose to criticize many of the policies that the president supports, including progressive taxation.
That was enough to cause conservatives to swoon. Since Obama’s election, Republicans have been sensitive to charges that their small tent of aging voters has become a bastion of white resentment, a cauldron of bigotry, nativism and fear of the other. They want to show that their fierce resistance to all things Obama has nothing to do with race.
That promotes a special affection for black conservatives who are willing to viciously criticize the president. As with Cain before him, Carson garners the most enthusiastic cheers from conservative audiences when he’s excoriating Obama, the most rapturous applause when he seems to absolve them of charges of bigotry. Why would Carson trade on his reputation to become their token?
I’ve little doubt that his conservative impulses are genuine. He grew up Seventh-Day Adventist, a conservative religious tradition. Moreover, he has adopted a view popular among white conservatives: that black Democrats give short shrift to traditional values such as thrift, hard work and sacrifice. (Hasn’t Carson ever heard any of Obama’s riffs excoriating deadbeat dads and promoting discipline, scholarship and parental involvement in their children’s lives?)
But Carson hardly represents the long and honorable tradition of black conservatism in America. Starting with the father of that movement, Booker T. Washington, its adherents have had a healthy appreciation for the reality of racism in America. Carson, however, thinks Obamacare “really (is) the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And … it is slavery in a way.” Washington and his peers, who knew better, would never have countenanced such nonsense.
Moreover, black conservatism has promoted self-reliance, but it hasn’t been a font of right-wing intolerance and know-nothingism. Carson, for his part, has dismissed evolution (giving his former colleagues at Johns Hopkins heartburn); he has compared homosexuality to bestiality; and he has spurned the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.
Given the ultraconservative politics of GOP primary voters, those extreme positions may help Carson in the early campaign season. But those views also guarantee that mainstream Republican leaders and their donors will flock elsewhere, seeking to find an experienced, broadly appealing and electable candidate.
Carson can only lose in this campaign — and more than just the Republican primary. He also stands to lose his place as one of the nation’s most admired men.
By: Cynthia Tucker, a Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, May 9, 2015