New York real-estate developer Donald Trump has dominated the Republican nomination campaign for months — but his strongest support doesn’t come from any of the organized blocs in the Republican party.
He polls well among conservative and evangelical voters, to be sure, running competitively against Sen. Ted Cruz with these voters. He draws considerable support, also, from self-identified “liberal”or “moderate” Republicans. In fact, in the latest Quinnipiac poll, his biggest polling margin against his GOP rivals was among moderate and liberal Republicans.
But his strongest support comes from Republicans who used to be Democrats, according to new polling analysis by Democrat data firm Civis Analytics.
And those party-switching Americans — if they register and turn up at the 2016 polls, especially in swing-state mid-western states — could transform American politics in 2016. That’s because the GOP candidate needs to sweep the mid-western states — plus win Florida — to reach the critical total of 270 electoral votes.
The new Civis Analytics survey shows that Trump wins 40 percent support from these party-switching voters. These once-registered Democrats — likely because of family or local history — now make up 10 percent of Republican primary voters, but are a larger factor in the states throughout the industrial Midwest and South.
The New York Times first reported on the Civis analysis and, of course, tried to imply a racial component to Trump’s appeal to disaffected Democrats. The Times, and the Democrat data firm made much of an apparent correlation between where Trump polls best and the popularity of Google searches that are deemed “racially charged.”
Setting aside the obvious limits of drawing too many conclusions from correlations, this analysis is obvious crap. The information on Trump polling is obviously drawn from present day surveys. The data on Google searches, however, is drawn from 2004-2007. The most recent information on Google searches, then, is over 8 years ago.
Obviously, another key shortcoming of the “analysis” is that one never learns what exactly, or even generally, “racially charged” searches even are. Is a search for the full name of rap bad NWA racially charged, for example? The media likes to perpetuate the myth that opposition to President Obama is evidence of latent racism, just as opposition to Hillary Clinton is about to unearth latent sexism in the US. The survey of “racially charged” Google searches, however, predates President Obama’s leading role on the national political stage.
The real foundational political bias of the media is their assumption that voters would be Democrats if they didn’t also hold some horrible views that are kept hidden under a veneer of rationalizations. A secure national border is only important if you are secretly biased against Hispanics, for example. Opposition to abortion is borne of a pathological psychological desire to control women’s bodies, rather than a belief that a fetus is a human being. Support for traditional marriage is really just code for irrational hatred of people who happen to be gay.
To the Times, the fact that West Virginia gives Trump his highest levels of support is a priori a sign of racism at the heart of the Trump phenomenon. Because, West Virginia, according to the media, is obviously a racist state. The state’s economy, however, has been decimated by President Obama’s regulatory attacks on the coal industry. Less than half of the state’s adults has a job.
Simple economics explain the strong support in West Virginia for a candidate whose slogan is “Make America Great Again.” One doesn’t need to reach deeply into an academic symposium on critical race studies to explain Trump’s appeal to people facing strong economic anxiety.
The media’s political analysis on these matters is juvenile, but it is one that has taken hold of the leadership of both political parties. The entire leadership of the national Republican party is obsessed with avoiding all discussion or legal or illegal immigration for fear of alienating potential future voters.
Actually, it is more superficial than that. The Republican party fears alienating the possible theoretical beliefs of these future voters. The challenge of any political party is not to conform its views to a laundry list of positions, but to galvanize voters around a set of beliefs the party argues is most important in an election.
Until recently, most Americans supported some form of gun control when questioned about the issue, albeit superficially, in media polls. Few of these Americans, however, based their voting decisions on this issue. For opponents of gun control, however, is was often their top consideration when casting ballot. This simple fact goes a long way to explaining why gun control is a political loser.
The obsessive focus by both political parties on future and potential voters has the inevitable consequence of ignoring an awful lot of current voters. Mitt Romney might very well have been elected President but for the apparent disappearance of millions of white, working-class voters.
In Ohio, the share of Hispanics voting actually fell between 2008 and 2012, but the African-American vote grew by almost 40 percent, while the White vote fell by 5 percent. If the White working-class share of the vote had been the same in 2012 as it was in 2008, Romney would likely have been elected.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2012, Democrat strategists openly worried about the party’s terrible standing with white working class voters. In early 2013, the Center for American Progress, a left-wing think tank, published a long analysis highlighting the weakness of Democrats among white working class voters. Leading progressive strategist Ruy Teixeira worried that Democrats would face strong political head-winds unless the party could broaden its appeal to these disaffected voters.
“As the 2012 elections demonstrated, the group that has perhaps the greatest potential in this regard is the white working class,” Teixeira and Andrew Levison wrote in The New Republic. “The white working class has the potential to be a—if not the—decisive swing voter group for the future.”
With great fanfare, the CAP, and other leading progressive groups, launched the “Bobby Kennedy Project” to improve the Democrat’s outreach to working class voters. The effort was quietly abandoned soon after. A contributing factor in the project’s demise was the perceived risk of moderating current positions of the Democrat party to attract working class voters.
“At this point, the tradeoffs they might have to make to attract more working-class white voters may not be worth the cost in irritating the constituencies of their current coalition,” University of Virginia political scientist Geoff Skelley said in an email to the Washington Free Beacon.
“Democrats may believe they have the economic arguments to attract those voters, but cultural conservatism among many working-class whites will make it hard to win many of them over,” Skelley explained. “And there’s no going back at this point for Democrats on social issues: they’ve made gains by being a socially liberal party, probably more than from being an economically moderate-to-liberal one.”
So, it isn’t too difficult to understand that disaffected Democrats may be drawn to the Trump campaign. Democrats have tied their political fortunes to aggressive social justice warriors, while the Republican party seems beholden to the corporate donor class.
The challenge for Trump, however, as the Times notes, is that the disaffected Democrats and working class voters supporting his campaign are among the least likely to vote in general elections. It is possible, however, that they haven’t voted because they haven’t identified a candidate they could support.
If Trump brings them to the polls, they could reshape American politics for the next several years. Trump’s dominance of the polls has confounded pundits for half the year. The results at the ballot box could be even more surprising.