Republican leaders are realizing what progressives have been saying for years: the GOP has become the White Resentment Party. (More)
“It’ll cease to be the Republican Party as we’ve known it”
The latest shake-up in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has jolted the Republican establishment out of denial to a new realization: Whatever happens to their nominee in November, Trumpism may well endure as a source of ferment in their party.
Until this week, it had been possible for party elders to convince themselves that Trump might prove to be a passing storm in their ranks rather than a portent of climate change.
But to their dismay, the party standard-bearer has now signaled that he intends to go for broke in the final stretch of the campaign.
Tumulty and Costa call it “Trumpism,” but they’re being too narrow. Trump’s voters are the same people who cheered Rep. Steve “Canteloupe Calves” King (R-IA) and the House Republicans who wanted a law that would force President Obama to show his birth certificate. They’re the same people who believed Rush Limbaugh’s claim that the Affordable Care Act was “reparations” for slavery, who hailed George Zimmerman as a hero, and petitioned to have the Black Lives Matter movement classified as a “terror group.”
The only difference between Trump and many other GOP leaders is that he proudly declares what they slyly imply. But there exists a stubbornly oblivious faction within the GOP, and the media, who insist Trump has created something new. Consider how Tumulty and Costa describe Trump’s voters:
Theirs is an amorphous alternative to traditional conservatism – often associated with the “alt right” movement – that is leery of liberal immigration, multiculturalism, military involvement overseas and free trade. Its critics also accuse the alt right of flirting with white supremacism, anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance.
No, we don’t accuse them of “flirting with white supremacism.” We examine the predictable consequences of the policies they propose and oppose, see that they always find excuses to pamper white men and undermine women and people of color, and reasonably conclude that they are white supremacists.
Tumulty and Costa continue to tiptoe around that:
Trump has disavowed some of those incendiary associations when they have emerged at various points in the campaign, and Bannon has rejected accusations that Breitbart News fuels racial and ethnic divisions. But the links continue to be made, including from within the GOP.
“Movements like this, with toxic and nasty stuff, have existed in one form or another, but they’ve been kept on the outer fringes of American political life. Now it’s command and control at headquarters,” said Peter Wehner, who was director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives under George W. Bush.
“If the GOP fully becomes the home to the Breitbart and alt-right movement, it’ll cease to be the Republican Party as we’ve known it,” Wehner added. “There will be a huge crack-up beyond anything we’ve seen.”
“Conservatives shouldn’t be cocky that they’re going to win this battle,” Wehner said. “The elements that produced Trump did not emerge out of nothing, and they are not going to disappear in the blink of an eye, even if Trump goes away.”
No, those elements did not “emerge out of nothing.” And they run very deep.
“It’s a visceral feeling of being left behind”
The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein wrote about it back in June:
In the Trump vocabulary, the word “back” ranks closely behind “again.” Trump is forever promising to “bring back” things that have been lost. Manufacturing jobs, steel and coal production, waterboarding of terrorists, “law and order” in the cities – all of these Trump says he will “bring back” to reverse what he portrays as years of American decline.
These phrases capture the mission of restoration underpinning Trump’s campaign. They touch the pervasive sense of loss among many of his supporters – the belief that the changes molding modern America have marginalized them economically, demographically, and culturally. These words allow him to evoke a hazy earlier time when American life worked better for the overwhelmingly white, heavily blue-collar coalition now drawn to him. And they help explain the visceral connection he has established with those white working-class voters, a connection strong enough to survive a concatenation of controversies that might have exploded any other candidate.
“It’s a visceral feeling of being left behind,” said Daniel Cox, the research director of the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute, which studies cultural attitudes. “Economically they are being left behind, but culturally, too, things that seemed to be O.K. when some of these folks were younger – whether it’s the words you can use or approaches to gender roles – are no longer O.K.”
The New York Times’ Nicholas Confessore echoed that theme last month:
Mr. Trump has attacked Mexicans as criminals. He has called for a ban on Muslim immigrants. He has wondered aloud why the United States is not “letting people in from Europe.”
His rallies vibrate with grievances that might otherwise be expressed in private: about “political correctness,” about the ranch house down the street overcrowded with day laborers, and about who is really to blame for the death of a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. In a country where the wealthiest and most influential citizens are still mostly white, Mr. Trump is voicing the bewilderment and anger of whites who do not feel at all powerful or privileged.
But in doing so, Mr. Trump has also opened the door to assertions of white identity and resentment in a way not seen so broadly in American culture in over half a century, according to those who track patterns of racial tension and antagonism in American life.
Dozens of interviews – with ardent Trump supporters and curious students, avowed white nationalists, and scholars who study the interplay of race and rhetoric – suggest that the passions aroused and channeled by Mr. Trump take many forms, from earnest if muddled rebellion to deeper and more elaborate bigotry.
And this month NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben notes an urban-rural divide:
All these stats might make it seem that it’s demographics that cause rural voters to choose Trump, or other Republican candidates: that there’s something about being white or about being older or not having a college diploma that makes a person vote for him, and that those people also just happen to live in rural areas.
Or, perhaps, that there’s something about being conservative that makes a person choose a rural area. That may be true – Pew has found that (for whatever reason) people who are conservative prefer places where the population is more spread-out, while liberals prefer denser neighborhoods.
But as one researcher argues, living in a rural area by itself shapes a person’s politics, and can particularly drive a voter toward Trump.
“There’s this sense that people in those communities are not getting their fair share compared to people in the cities,” said Katherine Cramer, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin who studied how Gov. Scott Walker appealed to rural voters.
“They feel like their communities are dying, and they perceive that all that stuff – the young people, the money, the livelihood – is going somewhere, and it’s going to the cities,” she said.
Cramer has labeled these intense, negative feelings against people in the cities “rural resentment.”
That was the “Real America” of Sarah Palin and Dana Loesch, and it’s disproportionately white. The people who told Will Bunch that President Obama only won “the cities … welfare America, handout America.”
Republicans have been humming that tune for decades. Trump is different only in that he shouts out the lyrics, white and proud and loud.
So no, it won’t go away when Trump loses, and it’s about time GOP leaders came to terms with what they’ve spawned.
Photo Credit: Reuters
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