Dale Worley (achinhibitor) wrote,
Dale Worley

"Trump’s rising poll numbers raise a question"

Dear Mr. Lehigh:

In your Globe column for June 10, you ask the central question:

So what, exactly, would it take for Republicans to abandon this dishonest, divisive, dysfunctional president?

I've tried to analyze that, so I took this as a challenge to try to organize my thoughts coherently.

First, we have to clarify what "Republicans" means. Of course, that doesn't mean the business community, or conservative intellectuals, or the Republican National Committee's *feelings*, as all of those groups are dominated by Never-Trumpers. As some columnist noted, the closer a Republican is exposed to Republican voters, the more they support Trump. So what we're talking about is Republican *voters*.

And it's clear that the Republican voters, or rather, the people who voted for Trump (since a bunch of them voted for Obama, too), are non-college-educated white people. We could also call them "the white lower-middle class" or "the white working class". Conversely, roughly nobody else voted for Trump. What makes this politically interesting is that there are a *lot* of non-college-educated white people out there, almost enough to win an election.

So why would they vote for this buffoon? The expected answer is "They think he promotes their interests.", or at least "He promotes their interests more than any other politician." History shows that people will ignore a lot of a politician's life if they think he can help them. Just think of all the liberals (myself included) who ignored all of Bill Clinton's various scandals.

It's clear that non-college-educated white people haven't been doing so well over the past few decades. They're gradually losing the benefits of whiteness, but they're also on the losing side of the increasing benefits of being a college graduate. A lot of their jobs used to be well-paying unionized work in heavy industry, jobs which have largely gone to China. So many of them are a lot lower on the totem pole than they (or their parents) were. They're afraid that they're going to have to share their place with poor people. There seems to be a growing wave of poor people flooding in from Latin America.

So the white working class wants assistance against the groups that it sees as immediate competitors:
1) the poor (the class immediately below it),
2) the non-white working class (the class it competes with directly), and
3) the "professional" (college-educated) workers (the class immediately above it)

Trump is pretty much the first politician in recent decades to take up their cause. The Democrats are no hope, of course, because they are an alliance of the professional workers, the poor, and the non-white. The Republicans have been no help in the past because of their domination by the business community (which wants free immigration and free trade) and conservative intellectuals (who are biased in favor of both of those). Not to say that Trump is particularly effective in any of these battles, but he's the only one who seems to even be trying.

So what might cause non-college-educated white voters to abandon Trump? There are various possibilities.

1) Trump abandons their causes. This seems unlikely due to Trump's instinct to double down whenever he's challenged.

2) Some Democrats take up their causes. This seems unlikely, as the power centers of the Democrats are all the groups they they compete with most directly.

3) Some other Republicans take up their causes. This is an interesting possibility, that some Republican who isn't so utterly personally deficient would take up Trumpism and provide his supporters with a less toxic vehicle for their interests. Possibly even one with political skill who could get them part of what they want.

The difficulty of this path is that to run as a Trumpist, you have to be positioned to raise huge sums from ordinary people, as the entire Republican Establishment apparatus opposes Trumpism. Trump managed it by becoming prime-time famous before he ran for office. But as an ordinary Republican, you're going to need the Establishment to pay for rising through the ranks to become (perhaps) Senator, then when you're important enough that you can attract mass attention, suddenly volte-face on policy.

Mike Pence seems to be the only exception to this analysis.

4) The current problems of the white working class recede in importance, and Trumpism no longer speaks to the white working class's biggest problems. This seems possible.

A lot of working class pain right now is the aftermath of China's entry into the world economy and the Great Recession. The financial crisis is now recovered-from (in the typical 10 years) and there will never again be such a huge increment of globalization. The evidence of these is the low unemployment rate, which seems not to be due to a bubble (as the last two low unemployment spells were). Manufacturing employment in the US is growing. Even the wave of quasi-refugees may start receding in importance, as putting them to work would only supply at most 1/4 of the jobs the economy is capable of generating. Nobody asks questions about immigration status when they're pricing out getting their roof replaced.

As Steve Bailey noted, "When the pie shrinks, the table manners disappear." But when the pie grows, many people are comfortable with seeing someone else's piece grow a bit faster than theirs. If the white working class gets to this situation, support for Trumpism may shrivel.

Yours truly,

Dale R. Worley
Waltham, MA

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