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Saturday, March 12, 2016

The populist icing on the cake

by digby

Greg Sargent had an intresting piece the other day featuring some new data from Alan Abromowitz,Ronald Rapoport, and Walter Stone about "The Trump voter". Sargent writes, "Abramowitz’s conclusion is partly that Trump support is driven heavily by a combination of nativism and support for Trump’s unorthodox (for Republicans, anyway) economic positions."

The unorthodox economic positions are defined by Trump's pledge not to cut social security (because he'll root out the waste fraud and abuse and make the country so rich, rich, rich we'll have money for everything.) He is also apparently considered someone who will raise taxes on those making over 250k but that's not true. And there is his promise to bring back jobs by "beating" China and Mexico etc on trade.

The nativism is obvious. He is promising to ban Muslims, deport Hispanics and show those Chinese, Japanese, Indians overseas who are making all those cheap goods just who is boss. That argument all ties together.

There's another factor they found as well: authoritarianism, which they defined this way and found the following results:
We measured authoritarianism by asking respondents to agree or disagree with the statement that “what this country needs is a strong leader to shake things up in Washington.” Fifty-nine percent of Republican voters strongly agreed with this statement and among that group, 50% ranked Trump first and only 14% ranked him last. In contrast, among the 17% of Republican voters who were classified as low on authoritarianism by either agreeing only slightly or disagreeing with this statement, only 20% ranked Trump first and 48% ranked him last.

So, what they concluded was that there was a strong relationship between authoritarianism, nativism, and economic liberalism among Trump voters. (I would argue that nationalism plays an extremely important role as well, but it appears they didn't ask about that.)

I guess I don't really understand why this is such a mystery. This the profile of Republicans who used to be called Reagan Democrats. They've been part of the GOP coalition or more than 30 years. And their views have always been the same. Nativism/racism, authoritarian/lawandorder, nationalist/militarist, economic populists. These are blue collar white people who used to vote for Democrats until Democrats became the party of civil rights, civil liberties and anti-war protests. In other words, the party of black and brown people, gays, and feminists, globalists and critics of authoritarian police agencies and military adventurism.

After that happened Democrats remained more responsive to economic populism although they foolishly muddied their message so that their differences with the GOP were obscured. But it wouldn't have mattered, not really. People who hold that set of beliefs are Republicans because they do not want to be in multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalition where "liberal peaceniks" and uppity feminists are equal partners. The GOP's fundamental nativism and racism and "patriotic" militarism are the reasons they prefer the Republicans and they are the reasons they prefer Donald Trump. They love him so much because they've finally found someone who boldly expresses all those beliefs.

It's just a fact that these voters stuck with the GOP for many decades when they were fetishizing free trade, promising to cut "entitlements" and obsessing over "tort reform" and "the deficit" because it was the white party and the war party.

It's obviously necessary for Democrats to offer solutions to these voters' economic woes. It's long past time they started looking after their own working class constituency of brown and black folks, many of them women, who will benefit from a more populist approach. So no arguments from me that they shouldn't try to appeal to everyone on this populist axis. But these people will not vote for them if they do that.

This new piece by Ron Brownstein confirms that these are standard issue Republicans, not independents or recent Democrats:
Though some conservative Trump critics have claimed that he has relied on a surge of non-Republican voters, the exit polls conducted so far in 15 states point toward the opposite conclusion. Overall, although turnout has soared from 2012, the share of the total primary votes cast by self-identified Republicans this year is virtually unchanged. And Trump has beaten his rivals among self-identified Republicans in every exit poll conducted in states that he has won.

Together these patterns suggest that Trump has built his coalition primarily from voters within the heart of the Republican electorate—a dynamic that could make it more difficult for the party leaders to deny him the nomination if he finishes the primaries with the most delegates, but less than an absolute majority. It also suggests that his rise could signal a lasting shift in the party’s balance of power toward the anti-establishment, heavily blue-collar voters who have provided the core of his support.

Trump’s consistent success with those voters has replaced many of the party’s traditional divides—such as religious identification and ideology—with a new fissure centered on class and alienation from institutions. In that sense, Trump this year has been as much a demand-side as a supply-side phenomenon. He is coalescing, and giving voice to, an increasingly important component of the existing Republican coalition—one that earlier blue-collar populists such as Patrick J. Buchanan in 1996 and Rick Santorum in 2012 also tried to mobilize, with much less success.

“It is a part of the coalition that has always been there,” adds Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political scientist. “It’s just that he’s capitalizing on this anti-establishment anger within the party, that’s been directed toward the Democrats and President Obama, now he’s directing it inward. And the key issues he talks about, the nativist appeal that he has, is broadly popular among Republican voters.”
I'm sure these folks always believed that social security should be protected and that trade deals were bad and that taxes should be raised on rich people. But they weren't the issues they voted on and they still aren't the issues they're voting on. It's those "other" things they like about Trump --- that he promises to "beat foreigners the old fashioned way" and deport millions of "illegals" and ban Muslims and let police take the gloves off against the "bad people" who have no respect for "law and order". That he also promises to make so much money "for America"that we won't have to cut entitlements is just icing on the cake.

Robert Mackey at the Intercept took a look at Trump's demagoguery with respect to protesters and had this insight. After all, Trump is an old guy, a product of the 60s.  But he wasn't a radical.

Mackey writes:
Given Trump’s obvious fondness for the presidency of Richard Nixon, though — the posters evoking “the silent majority” of Americans who support him, the decades of advice from dirty trickster Roger Stone — my own guess is that he might be harking back to a moment in early 1970, when dozens of antiwar protesters in Trump’s own city did indeed require stretchers, after being attacked and beaten by construction workers loyal to Nixon. 
The incident, which became known as “the hard-hat riot,” took place in May 1970, when a student demonstration against the killing of four protesters at Kent State University in Ohio by members of the National Guard was broken up with extreme violence by union members from nearby construction sites.