Monday, September 07, 2015

The Backlash Election

Here's a pretty good Matt Taibbi article in Rolling Stone this week about Trumpmania.  Taibbi's main observation about Trump voters is that they represent a mini-populist revolt of Republican voters against the Republican donor class. 
And all that money the Republican kingmakers funneled into Fox and Clear Channel over the years, making sure that their voters stayed focused on ACORN and immigrant-transmitted measles and the New Black Panthers (has anyone ever actually seen a New Black Panther? Ever?) instead of, say, the complete disappearance of the manufacturing sector or the mass theft of their retirement income, all of that's now backing up on them.

The party worked the cattle in their pen into such a dither that now they won't rest until they get the giant wall that real-life, as-seen-on-TV billionaire Donald Trump promises will save them from all those measles-infected rapists pouring over the border.
And that's all well and good. I mean, I think Taibbi is accurately describing the fault lines in the GOP coalition.  However, I don't think those faults are ultimately anything for Republican party leaders to worry about electorally.   Right now the footsoldiers are having a little fit and making the oligarchs nervous. But all that really means is they're going to be up in a lather and ready to take it out on Hillary once the general election comes around.

Trump will not be the nominee. Whoever is will benefit from all of this anger. Because, to paraphrase our friend Oyster, elections aren't decided by sober discussions of policy points.  Large numbers of voters are moved by more visceral appeals and themes.

The 2016 national election cycle is going to be about many things to many people.  But its most prominent animating theme is going to be white backlash. Here's Taibbi again.
ABC News published an intriguing poll the other day, one that spelled out a growing racial divide:

"Nonwhites see Trump negatively by a vast 17-79 percent… That said, whites are the majority group – 64 percent of the adult population – and they now divide evenly on Trump, 48-49 percent, favorable-unfavorable. Clinton, by contrast, is far more unpopular than Trump among whites, 34-65 percent. So while racial and ethnic polarization is on the rise in views of Trump, it remains even higher for Clinton."
Conservative white voters are pretty ridiculous and a little scary when they're all riled up like this.  At the same time, though, there sure are a lot of them. And their whole point this year is they're tired of putting up with everyone else.
Trump's supporters are people who are tired of being told they have to be part of some kind of coalition in order to have a political voice. They particularly hate being lectured about alienating minorities, especially by members of their own party.
Despite what you might read in a lot of the mainstream punditry right now, Trump isn't "tearing the GOP apart."  He's only tensing up its coils and storing up its energy.  Come next fall, the release of that energy is going to be what drives this election.  

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