Which is the Real "Working Class Party" Now?
Donald Trump self-immolated, but the results of Tuesday's election show the seeds of a profound switch in roles for the Democratic and Republican Parties
In an irony he is humorously ill-equipped to appreciate, Donald Trump by losing this week may have gained something for the Republican Party bureaucracy he took such pleasure in humiliating four years ago: a future.
Defying years of muddle-headed media analyses, Trump underperformed with white men, but made gains with every other demographic. Some 26 percent of his votes came from nonwhite Americans, the highest percentage for a Republican since 1960. The politician who became instantly famous — and infamous — by saying of Mexican immigrants, “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists,” performed stunningly well with Latino voters.
Exit polls, which can be unreliable, pegged his national support at 32%-35% of the Latino vote. More tellingly were results in certain counties. Starr County, Texas, the county with the highest percentage of Hispanic or Latino voters — above 95% — voted for Hillary Clinton by a 60-point margin in 2016, but went for Biden by just five points in 2020.
Even more amazing was Trump’s performance among Black voters. The man whose 2016 message to “the blacks” was very nearly a parody of long-ago New York mayoral candidate Mario Procaccino’s pledge that “My heart is as black as yours” must have found a new way to connect. Trump doubled his support with Black women, moving from 4% in 2016 to 8%, while upping his support among Black men from 13% to 18%. Remember, this was after four years of near-constant denunciations of Trump as not just a racist, but the leader of a literal white supremacist movement:
Trump’s numbers with the LGBTQ community were a stunner also, jumping from 14% to 28%. In September, a dating app for queer men called Hornet ran a survey that showed 45% support for Trump among gay men. Ever since Trump jumped into politics, media observers have rushed to denounce any Trump-related data that conflicts with conventional wisdom, and the Hornet survey was no different. Out magazine quoted a communications professor from Cal Poly Pomona as saying, “To tout a Hornet poll as evidence of LGBTQ support for Trump is clickbaity, sloppy journalism.” Even the Hornet editor scoffed at his own poll, before it all turned out to be true in the election.
Trump even improved his standing among white women, 53% of whom were already pilloried in 2016 for voting for a man who bragged about how you “grab ‘em by the pussy, you can do anything.” Trump spent four years of being ripped for accusations of sexual misconduct, vile comments, and, let’s not forget also, infidelity! Trump as president was busted for wantonly cheating with multiple women, including porn stars who offered the press incredible, retch-inducing descriptions of the presidential tackle:
Yet even here, Trump gained, earning 55% of the white female vote. These results, juxtaposed against the contrasting media coverage, suggested the basic divide. Joe Biden earned 57% of the votes of college graduates, and cleaned up in the cities. Trump won 60% of voters in small towns and rural areas. In simple terms, Trump won with the sort of people who do not read The Washington Post or watch MSNBC, and disagreed with their myths.
Trump lost the election because of his handling of the pandemic, the top issue for 41% of voters, who chose Biden by a nearly 3-1 margin. But among people whose top concern was the economy — 28% of the electorate — Trump won an incredible 80% of the vote.
All of this points to a dramatic change. Trump may not have done much, politically, to deserve the support of Black, Latino, LGBTQ, and female voters. But the Democrats’ conspicuous refusal to address economic inequality and other class issues in a meaningful way created an opening.
Now, Trump is likely to leave the White House, but he created a coalition that some Republicans already understand would deliver massively in a non-pandemic situation. As Missouri Republican Josh Hawley put it the night of the election, “We are a working-class party now. That’s the future.”
What happens from here is a race to see which political party can make the obvious dumb move faster. Will the Democrats, emboldened by the false high of a Biden victory, blow off the clear need to revamp their economic messaging before 2022, when they risk losing both houses of congress?
Or will the Republican opposition give away the Trump coalition just as fast, by choosing Mitch McConnell’s donor list over Hawley’s insight?
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