Many of you have heard myriad of media outlets and pundits citing Trump’s campaign as dog whistles to White Supremacists and angry white nativists. There has even been a report about White Supremacists broadcasting from inside Trump rallies. Washington Post reported that Trump’s recent personal and racially tinged attacks on a federal judge overseeing lawsuits against him have set off a wave of alarm among legal experts. I think Trump’s rants has shown us all that there is no need for dog whistling when blatant racist comments and race-baiting is still working remarkably well in today’s modern-day American politics.
So I decided to actually research this topic to see how much of Trump’s campaign success is driven by fear and anger toward multicultural population growth in the US. If his campaign slogan of make America great “again” and going back to good ‘ol days are any indication, I’d suspect quite a bit. But first the facts…..
A recent Pew research showed that among GOP voters who see newcomers to the US threatening American customs and values, 59% view Trump warmly, with 42% very warm, while only 28% give him a cold rating. And conversely, among GOP voters who say newcomers strength society are negative toward Trump—56% cold rating, 25% very cold (below 25).
There are other interesting stats on this report. Younger Republicans below 30 are less likely to say immigrants threaten our values and view Trump warmly. But GOP voters with no college education feel very warmly toward him.
More importantly, the regression analysis done by Pew determined that holding constant a variety of demographic traits and political values, the most powerful driver is whether the respondent feels threatened by the increasing number of immigrants.
The views about Islam and Violence are also associated with Trump. Among majority of GOP (77%) who say Islam is likely to promote violence, 56% give Trump a warm rating versus 32% cold. And among minority of GOP voters (39%) who say it is bad for the country to be majority Black/Hispanic/Asian in the next 25-30 years, most (63%) express warmth toward Trump with 47% rating him very warm.
No wonder GOP is so nervous about Trump’s nomination. I think everyone was hoping that once he gets the nomination, his tone will change. But not a chance. Millennials are highly multicultural (40%). It is no wonder that a poll by Harvard institute of politics in April showed that, even with Bernie Sanders out of the way, voters 18-29 preferred Hillary Clinton over Trump by 61% (vs 25%).
We hear on media repeatedly on how well Trump scores with white men, specially undereducated. Have you ever wondered why a large portion of White American men–including those not suffering economically–are rallying behind Donald Trump and his demagogue nativist tone and campaign? I’m not suggesting that all his white male supporters are attracted to his racially charged campaign strategy. Many are drawn to him because of his policies on Corporate inversion, trade, job creation and his success as a businessman. But I am suggesting that his campaign success is primarily driven by its “emotional” tone of fear, anger and resentment.
But do we really know why?
His emotional campaign is tapping into a deep rooted anger among white population that is far more widespread than anyone recognized. This anger is not driven by just income inequality—it is driven by lack of happiness, hopes and dreams. A recent Brookings research report revealed, surprisingly, that the most desparate groups in the US are not poor minorities who have traditionally been discriminated against, but poor and nearly-poor whites. In fact, of all racial groups in poverty, blacks are the most optimistic about their futures—about three times more than poor whites. And poor blacks are 52% less likely to experience stress than poor whites (and Hispanics 47% less likely). Numerous reports show increased addiction to opioids and suicide rates among uneducated whites, but not blacks and Hispanics.
As Eduardo Porter of the New York Times wrote in 2015, at the same time that the gaps in income and achievement widened across income groups, they have narrowed between blacks (and Hispanics) and whites.
Perhaps non-white population has a much higher level of resilience toward stress. Maybe stronger sense of community. Definitely the Obama effect–having a Black President has certainly increased hopes and dreams among blacks, even if economic numbers don’t show it. But I think there is a deeper emotional, possibly unconscious, reason. Bias, prejudice, and also insecurity. Blue collar whites are insecure since they are facing much more competition for jobs than their parents did. They are taking jobs away from me, why are “their” lives improving and mine isn’t?
I believe Trump has known this all along. How far back into his campaign he knew, nobody knows. I used to think that he was such a great strategist that he saw this huge market opportunity and went for it. And succeeded. But now, I think it was his personality and temperment that appealed to these angry voters, and it was then that he realized this huge market opportunity, …. and decided to scream it ….. and media rewarded him by showering him with coverage in exchange for ratings.
Trump’s campaign, the heart of it, is about America’s decline. If you don’t believe in any of this, then ask yourself which group believes that the most?