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“An Electoral Gamble”: Why Working-Class Whites Can’t Propel Donald Trump To Ultimate Victory

If there’s one thing we know for sure about Donald Trump, it’s that he’s a candidate for white people.

This would seem to be an almost insurmountable problem in an increasingly diverse America, but some are beginning to suspect — either with hope or fear, depending on whom you ask — that Trump could win a general election by pulling in large numbers of working-class white voters who are responding to his message of alienation, anger, and resentment. As The Wall Street Journal recently put it, “Trump’s success in attracting white, working-class voters is raising the prospect that the Republican Party, in an electoral gamble, could attempt to take an unexpected path to the White House that would run through the largely white and slow-to-diversify upper Midwest.”

Indeed, if Trump were to win the White House, this would seem to be the only way. But it’s not going to happen.

The idea rests on a number of misconceptions, the first of which is that there are millions of blue-collar whites who would otherwise have voted Democratic, but who will vote for Donald Trump instead. As Chris Matthews said in January, “I think there’s a lot of Reagan Democrats waiting to vote for him.” The “Reagan Democrats” to which he refers were Democrats who crossed party lines to vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The problem with this belief is that the Reagan Democrats are gone. Where did they go? They became Republicans. The phenomenon of Reagan Democrats was largely about race, the continuation of a process that began when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. Those socially conservative whites who had voted Democratic in the past shifted their allegiance, and they didn’t go back.

You can argue, and many people have, that the alienation of the Democratic Party from the white working class is a serious problem for them, and it’s part of what produces off-year defeats in years like 2010 and 2014. But because of the country’s changing demographics, the white working class becomes a smaller and smaller portion of the voting public with each election, particularly in presidential election years when turnout is higher across the board. That’s why Barack Obama could lose the white working class in 2012 by a staggering 26 points (62-36), and still win the election comfortably. So if you’re going to argue that Donald Trump will ride these voters to victory, you’d have to believe that he’d do not just better than Mitt Romney did with them, but hugely better, so much so that it would overcome the advantages the Democratic nominee will have with other voters.

Consider, for instance, the Latino vote. Mitt Romney won only 27 percent of Latinos in 2012, an abysmal performance that convinced many Republicans that if they didn’t “reach out” to this fast-growing segment of the electorate, they might be unable to win the White House any time soon. Latinos will be an even larger portion of the electorate this year than they were four years ago. Now think what will happen if Donald Trump, the man who made venomous antipathy toward immigrants one of the cornerstones of his campaign, becomes the GOP nominee. Not only would it be shocking if he got 20 percent of their votes, his nomination will almost certainly spur higher turnout among Latinos than we’ve ever seen before.

That’s another problem with the blue-collar whites theory of a Trump victory: It rests on the idea that he’d bring out large numbers of those voters who don’t vote often, but also requires that people opposed to Trump won’t be similarly motivated to turn out. “I find it just so implausible that we could have this massive white nativist mobilization without also provoking a big mobilization among minority voters,” political scientist Ruy Teixeira recently told The New Yorker. “It is kind of magical thinking that you could do one thing and not have the other.”

Now let’s talk about that Rust Belt. Even if you believe that Trump would do better in those states than recent Republicans have, it wouldn’t be enough unless he was absolutely crushing the Democrat everywhere. The reason is that Democrats start in an excellent position in the Electoral College. In 2012, President Obama won reelection with 332 electoral votes, a cushion of 62 more than he needed. That means that if the Democratic nominee can hold most of the states Obama won — including swing states heavy with Latinos, like Florida, New Mexico, and Colorado — she could lose Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes), Ohio (18 votes), and Michigan (16 votes) and still be elected president.

I suspect that many people have been led to believe that Trump could ride white working-class votes to victory in the fall because he has performed particularly well with such voters in the Republican primaries. It only takes a moment to realize the problem with this logic. The people voting in Republican primaries are overwhelmingly, guess what, Republicans. Yes, there are Republican-leaning independents voting in those primaries, too, but they’re mostly people who call themselves independent but consistently vote Republican. They’re already in the GOP’s camp; Trump would need them, plus a whole lot more.

That’s not even to mention the moderate Republicans who are repulsed by Trump and would either vote for the Democrat, vote for a third-party candidate, or just stay home. Donald Trump’s problem in the general would be that he has all kinds of voters who will oppose him, and be highly motivated to do so; he is easily the most unpopular candidate in either party. He might pick up a few extra votes from those who respond to his nativism and race-baiting, yet used to vote for Democrats. But there just aren’t enough of them, and it won’t be anything approaching what he’d need to win.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, March 8, 2016

March 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, GOP Voters, White Working Class | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“The Spine Holding The Book Together”: Bain Is Just Chapter One In The “Book Of Romney”

The real Mitt Romney is finally running for president — but not in his own first television spot, a superficial checklist of issues which provides no insight into who he is or what makes him tick. It’s the Obama commercial on Bain and the destruction of GST Steel that starkly reveals the real Romney as a vulture capitalist. And this is just the beginning of what we will hear about Bain, and of a narrative arc that will position Romney as the candidate of the few, by the few, and for the few.

The Obama ad is so powerful because, like the Ted Kennedy ads in Romney’s losing 1994 Senate race, the story is told not by a smoothly modulated professional narrator, but by working people whose jobs and lives were shredded so Mitt and his men could amass their millions. One of the workers voted for John McCain in 2008 and for George W. Bush before that. Now these authentic blue-collar voices, these Reagan Democrats, are talking directly to swing voters — to folks who could be brothers or sisters, friends or cousins — in the battleground industrial states. It’s a different kind of political media — gritty, unslick, and therefore quite convincing.

My then-partner Tad Devine and I conceived and produced the Kennedy spots in 1994. They hit the Massachusetts airwaves with devastating force. In that landmark Republican year, Romney had a slight lead in September, but he swiftly fell in the polls and then melted down in a televised debate that outdrew the statewide audience for most Super Bowls. On Election Day, the boy from Bain lost in a landslide — by 18 points.

It was fascinating to watch how Romney responded as his campaign unravelled. In fact, he mostly didn’t. He seemed paralyzed — a guilty guy caught in the act. In a token push-back, his spokesman alleged that we had “put words in people’s mouths.” The Boston Globe checked and slapped down the story. The workers were spontaneous and unscripted. No political consultant could ghostwrite the rebuke of a packer laid off after 29 years, who looked into the camera and addressed Romney directly: “If you think you’d make such a good senator, come out here to Marion, Indiana, and see what your company has done to these people.”

The workers boarded a bus for Massachusetts and demanded a meeting with Romney. For days, he refused — which kept the episode in the headlines. When he finally sat down with them, he coldly said he’d consider their comments.

He wasn’t ready then, but that was 18 years ago — and he had to know this was coming at him again in 2012. Newt Gingrich stumbled onto the issue in South Carolina, where Romney was routed. But it was never going to be as devastating in Republican primaries as in the contest with Barack Obama. And the presumptive GOP nominee once again appears unready or unwilling to answer beyond offering up ritualistic bromides about “free enterprise”.

This is the false banner under which he campaigns — the claim that he is a job-creating businessman. The total has oscillated from 10,000 jobs to 100,000, to maybe not exactly that. But the abstract number, unsubstantiated and as soulless as Mitt himself often seems, is no match for a steel worker named Jack Cobb, discarded in Romney’s profiteering deal, but sad and defiant now: “To get up on national TV and brag about making jobs… he has destroyed thousands of people’s careers, lifetimes, just destroying people.”

The ads shatter the candidate’s fundamental rationale — that with his business experience in creating jobs, he’s Mr. Fix-It for the economy. It’s a thin rationale, but voters might have believed it. Now disbelief will deepen as the Obama campaign rolls out a dishonor roll of Bain’s depredations. The campaign already has a website that state by state — just coincidentally the battleground states, of course — pinpoints other companies exploited and extinguished by Bain.

I suspect that Romney will eventually have to abandon his strategy of treating the election as a referendum and not a choice — and attempt to defend his business record in paid media. The 1994 outcome suggests that any other course is a road to defeat.

I doubt he will make an ad repeating his disingenuous and dangerous claim that Obama also cut jobs while saving the auto industry. It’s disingenuous because the president saved GM and Chrysler — and Romney frequently did precisely the opposite to other companies. It’s dangerous because if he hopes to compete at all in Michigan and Ohio, he shouldn’t mention the auto bailout outside a confessional. His approach would have doomed the industry.

More likely, Romney will trot out workers — say, from Staples — to highlight jobs he claims to have created. The problem here is that during his tenure, Bain had two businesses. One was venture capital investing in start-ups. The other, which Romney drove, consisted of buying out a firm, hollowing it out, loading it up with debt, cutting wages — and making millions before the firm went belly-up. The one endeavor doesn’t redeem the other: What’s at issue here is not an accounting question, some mere matter of addition and subtraction, but the crass calculation of pillaging jobs and oppressing workers as a conscious business plan while occasionally grabbing a government bailout along the way.

Moreover, the response irresistibly invites a challenge: Romney should release the records of all Bain transactions from which he profited. He probably can’t afford to because the picture could be pretty grim. Presumably, he’s about as likely to risk this kind of full disclosure as he is to release tax returns for years when he may have paid little or no taxes.

There’s a (literally) rich vein to mine in Romney’s record at Bain. But it’s just the beginning of the narrative arc because the Obama campaign will move from the vulture capitalism of his private endeavors to his failures as a public official and the unfairness of his far-right agenda.

Thus the financial manipulator who decimated jobs in the private sector was a governor whose policies left his state 47th in job creation.

The takeover artist who slashed health benefits for workers would end Medicare as we know it, subject seniors to the harsh mercies of insurance companies, and raise their costs by approximately $6,500 a year.

The mega-millionaire with his offshore bank accounts would slash taxes for the very wealthy, and everything from education to food safety for the middle class.

The rapacious Romney, who in business took a government bailout and then would have let the auto industry collapse, now rails against bailouts and calls for rolling back financial regulation for the Wall Street firms that benefited from them.

The list goes on. The narrative is compelling. We haven’t heard the end of Bain — and we won’t until the end of the campaign — despite the inexplicable comments of Newark’s “Democratic” Mayor Cory Booker, who must be spending too much time cozying up to Republican Gov. (and potential running mate) Chris Christie. On Meet the Press, Booker equated the race-baiting, anti-Obama ads about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright that were recently proposed to billionaire clown Joe Ricketts with Obama’s Bain attack: “It’s nauseating.”

Well, Ricketts and his now-renounced smear job certainly was nauseating. But with Romney, what’s nauseating is what happened at his hands to ordinary hardworking Americans thrown out of work so he could rake in the bucks. And what’s worrying is Romney’s austerity agenda that would drive the U.S. into a double-dip recession, which is what such policies have already done to Great Britain.

Within hours, Booker retracted his comments and conceded the point: It is Romney who has made his business experience the centerpiece of his campaign. Bain is the spine that holds the whole Book of Romney together. As one of the workers in that Obama commercial put it, “If he’s going to run the country like the way he ran our business, I wouldn’t want him there. He would be so out of touch… How could [he] care?”

 

By: Robert Shrum, The Week, May 21, 2012

May 26, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Wisconsin Democrats Can Teach Washington Democrats

Consider the contrast between two groups of Democrats, in Wisconsin and in the nation’s capital.

Washington Democrats, including President Obama, have allowed conservative Republicans to dominate the budget debate so far. As long as the argument is over who will cut more from federal spending, conservatives win. Voters may think the GOP is going too far, but when it comes to dollar amounts, they know Republicans will always cut more.

In Wisconsin, by contrast, 14 Democrats in the state Senate defined the political argument on their own terms – and they are winning it.

By leaving Madison rather than providing a quorum to pass Gov. Scott Walker’s assault on collective bargaining for public employees, the Wisconsin 14 took a big risk. Yet to the surprise of establishment politicians, voters have sided with the itinerant senators and the unions against a Republican governor who has been successfully portrayed as an inflexible ideologue. And in using questionable tactics to force the antiunion provision through the Senate on Wednesday, Republicans may win a procedural round but lose further ground in public opinion.

Here’s the key to the Wisconsin battle: For the first time in a long time, blue-collar Republicans – once known as Reagan Democrats – have been encouraged to remember what they think is wrong with conservative ideology. Working-class voters, including many Republicans, want no part of Walker’s war.

A nationwide Pew Research Center survey released last week, for example, showed Americans siding with the unions over Walker by a margin of 42 percent to 31 percent. Walker’s 31 percent was well below the GOP’s typical base vote because 17 percent of self-described Republicans picked the unions over their party’s governor.

At my request, Pew broke the numbers down by education and income and, sure enough, Walker won support from fewer than half of Republicans in two overlapping groups: those with incomes under $50,000 and those who did not attend college. Walker’s strongest support came from the wealthier and those with college educations, i.e., country club Republicans.

Republicans cannot afford to hemorrhage blue-collar voters. In a seminal article in the Weekly Standard six years ago, conservative writers Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat observed: “This is the Republican Party of today – an increasingly working-class party, dependent for its power on supermajorities of the white working-class vote, and a party whose constituents are surprisingly comfortable with bad-but-popular liberal ideas like raising the minimum wage, expanding clumsy environmental regulations, or hiking taxes on the wealthy to fund a health care entitlement.”

Put aside that I favor the policies Douthat and Salam criticize. Their electoral point is dead on. In 2010, working-class whites gave Republicans a 30-point lead over Democrats in House races. That’s why the Wisconsin fight is so dangerous to the conservative cause: Many working-class Republicans still have warm feelings toward unions, and Walker has contrived to remind them of this.

Which brings us to the Washington Democrats. Up to now, the only thing clear about the budget fight is that Democrats want to cut less from discretionary spending than Republicans do. Quietly, many Democrats acknowledge that they have been losing this argument.

Thus the importance of a speech on Wednesday by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, intended to “reset the debate.” As Schumer noted, the current battle, focused on “one tiny portion of the budget,” evades the real causes of long-term budget deficits.

Schumer dared to put new revenue on the table – including some tax increases that are popular among the sorts of blue-collar voters who are turning against Walker. Schumer, for example, spoke of Obama’s proposal to end subsidies for oil and gas companies and for higher taxes on “millionaires and billionaires.” Yes, closing the deficit will require more revenue over the long run. But right now, the debate with the House isn’t focusing on revenue at all.

Schumer, who spoke at the Center for American Progress, also suggested cuts to agriculture subsidies and in unnecessary defense programs. He proposed changes in Medicare and Medicaid incentives that would save money, including reform of how both programs pay for prescription drugs. The broad debate Schumer called for would be a big improvement on the current petty argument, which he rightly described as “quicksand.”

To this point, Washington Democrats have been too afraid and divided to engage compellingly on the fundamentals of what government is there to do and how the burdens of deficit reduction should be apportioned. Wisconsin Democrats have shown that the only way to win arguments is to take risks on behalf of what you believe. Are Washington Democrats prepared to learn this lesson?

By: E. J. Dionne, Op-Ed Colunist, The Washington Post, March 10, 2011

March 10, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Deficits, Democrats, Federal Budget, GOP, Middle Class, Politics, Unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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