Donald Trump’s broad support on Super Tuesday, scoring victories from Massachusetts to Alabama, demonstrates a diverse pro-Trump coalition the likes of which have not been seen in presidential politics for 30 years.
In fact, Trump’s appeal in states as divergent as Vermont and Arkansas must raise this question: Could we be witnessing the birth of the Trump Democrats?
We will know a lot more about this prospect when the Republican frontrunner makes a campaign appearance Friday morning in Michigan’s Macomb County, the birthplace of the Reagan Democrats. A large crowd at that rally, in a bellwether county split between Republicans and Democrats, would serve as a leading indicator that Trump has established crossover appeal for angry blue-collar Democrats and disaffected independents.
Just as the emergence of Reagan Democrats was dismissed by party leaders in 1984-85, today’s Democratic Party leaders seem convinced that Hillary Clinton as the nominee would demolish Trump’s far-flung base of support.
But in one largely overlooked national poll in early January, before Trump had gained so much momentum, 20 percent of likely Democratic voters said they would buck the party and vote for Trump in a general elections.
I would suggest we are already witnessing Democratic defections during the primary season.
Goldie Taylor of The Daily Beast wrote today that Trump seems to be feeding off of a new version of the old Dixiecrats who turned on their party when it called for the end of segregation and the dawn of new civil rights laws. The Manhattan billionaire tycoon has somehow taken on the role of George Wallace, the Alabama governor who twice ran for president. Except in Trump’s case, a healthy dose of nationalism – even authoritarianism – flows throughout his campaign messaging.
Here’s Taylor’s take:
Trump’s “us versus them” mentality has attracted substantial support from white evangelicals and catapulted him into what is likely an insurmountable lead.
Without question, Trump has shocked the chattering class, energized his base and driven up turnout numbers in Republican primaries and caucuses. As the real-estate denizen steamrolls through states like Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee on Super Tuesday, it is worth noting that he polls strongest among working class-whites who are less educated and who were the least likely to vote. His reach also extends to north to Massachusetts and his home state of New York.
Last November, John B. Judis wrote in the National Journal that the Trump phenomenon was based on a re-emergence of the same maverick voting bloc that in previous decades provided a lift to the White House runs by Wallace, Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot.
Here’s Judis’ explanation:
These voters were not college educated; their income fell somewhere in the middle or lower-middle range; and they primarily held skilled and semi-skilled blue-collar jobs or sales and clerical white-collar jobs. At the time, they made up about a quarter of the electorate. What distinguished them was their ideology: It was neither conventionally liberal nor conventionally conservative, but instead revolved around an intense conviction that the middle class was under siege from above and below. On the other hand, they held very conservative positions on poverty and race.
They were the least likely to agree that whites had any responsibility “to make up for wrongs done to blacks in the past,’ they were the most critical of welfare agencies, they rejected racial busing, and they wanted to grant police a “heavier hand” to “control crime.” They were also the group most distrustful of the national government. And in a stand that wasn’t really liberal or conservative … (they) were more likely than any other group to favor strong leadership in Washington — to advocate for a situation “when one person is in charge.”
Trump may also be benefiting from the election of the country’s first African-American president. Once thought to be an augur of a post-racial America, Taylor points out that the 2008 election instead gave rise to black vs. white tensions thought by many to be already resolved. For some people, that clear demonstration of black voting power within the highly diverse Obama coalition was something to be feared rather than embraced. Over at Vox, Matthew Iglesias agrees:
For candidates like (Marco) Rubio — following the pace set by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — it’s about embracing a new, more diverse, more tolerant country. For Trumpers, it’s precisely the opposite. They want to put the Obama genie back in the bottle and fight vigorously for the traditional notion of Americanness, at home and abroad, even if it means jettisoning some of the GOP donor class’s ideological bugaboos.