January 29, 2016

"A CERTAIN KIND OF DEMOCRAT":

Is This the End of the GOP as We Know It? : Historian Rick Perlstein on the rise of Trump, the fall of Reagan, and the fate of contemporary conservatism. (Isaac Chotiner, 1/28/16, Slate)

Are you surprised that things seem to be turning up Trump?

I had a very interesting experience this summer. I remember exactly when it was. It was when I was reading an article by [Evan] Osnos in the New Yorker about Trump. He happened to be covering the white nationalist movement, basically neo-Nazis. Coincidentally, it was right when Donald Trump burst onto the scene, and he wrote about how these guys were embracing Trump, as they never had embraced any Republican candidate before. The feeling I got was that this was the first time in a very long time that I've read anything about the Republican Party that I couldn't assimilate into my normal categories. That was a very uncanny and uncomfortable feeling for me. I realized that I had to go back to the drawing board and rethink what was going on. This is something that's very new, very strange, and very hard to assimilate into what we thought we knew about how the Republican Party worked. [...]


By the same token, things I've been tracing about conservatism and the conservative takeover of the Republican Party as a backlash against the forces of liberalism--and anger at perceived liberal elites and all of the racial entailments of that--are part of the Trump phenomenon, too. So, how these things mix together and how they produce the phenomenon we're seeing now is something that's been very humbling for me.

Do you think the things that Trump has been exploiting have always been exploitable, or do you think that some conditions, either in the Republican Party or the country at large, have changed and made Trump possible?

That's a good question. I think that people who base their political appeal on stirring up the latent anger of, let's just say, for shorthand's sake, what Richard Nixon called the "silent majority," know that they're riding a tiger. Whether it was Richard Nixon very explicitly, when he was charting his political comeback after the 1960 loss, rejecting the John Birch Society. Or whether it was Ronald Reagan in 1978 refusing to align himself with something called the Briggs Initiative in California, which was basically an initiative to ban gay people from teaching, at a time when gays were being attacked in the streets. Or whether it was George W. Bush saying that Islam is a religion of peace and going to a mosque the week after 9/11. These Republican leaders have always resisted the urge to go full demagogue. I think they understood that if they did so, it would have very scary consequences. There was always this boundary of responsibility, the kind of thing enforced by William F. Buckley when he was alive.

I think that Donald Trump is the first front-runner in the Republican Party to throw that kind of caution to the wind. As demagogic as so much of the conservative movement has been in the United States, and full of outrageous examples of demagoguery, there's always been this kind of saving remnant, or fear of stirring up the full measure of anger that exists.

Friend Perlstein ought to be worried that the demagogue is, not surprisingly, nearly as popular among Democrats as Republicans.



MORE:
Trump's Lead Shrinks As Attacks On Cruz Appear To Backfire -- Poll (JOHN MERLINE1/28/2016, IBD)

Support for Trump fell to 31% among registered Republicans and Republican leaners, down from 34% in the prior IBD/TIPP Poll.

Poll: 20% of Dems would defect for Trump (Sarah Ferris, 01/09/16, The Hill)

About 20 percent of likely Democratic voters say they would buck the party and vote for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in a general election, according to a new poll.

Unions Lean Democratic, but Donald Trump Gets Members' Attention (NOAM SCHEIBER, JAN. 29, 2016, NY Times)

[T]he union's president, Mary Kay Henry, acknowledged that Mr. Trump holds appeal even for some of her members. "There is deep economic anxiety among our members and the people we're trying to organize that I believe Donald Trump's message is tapping into," Ms. Henry said. [...]

The source of the attraction to Mr. Trump, say union members and leaders, is manifold: the candidate's unapologetically populist positions on certain economic issues, particularly trade; a frustration with the impotence of conventional politicians; and above all, a sense that he rejects the norms of Washington discourse.

"They feel he's the one guy who's saying what's on people's minds," Thomas Hanify, the president of the Indiana state firefighters union, said of his rank and file.

Mr. Hanify said that Mr. Trump has so far dominated the "firehouse chatter" in his state. While he allowed that his members tilt Republican, he estimated that most followed the lead of the union's international leadership and supported Mr. Obama in 2008 and 2012.


Donald Trump's Strongest Supporters: A Certain Kind of Democrat (Nate Cohn, DEC. 31, 2015, NY Times)

He is strongest among Republicans who are less affluent, less educated and less likely to turn out to vote. His very best voters are self-identified Republicans who nonetheless are registered as Democrats. 

Posted by at January 29, 2016 5:52 PM

  

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