Thomas Edsall defines Trump’s single-issue constituency and their demography on today’s NY Times op ed page (“Donald Trump Understands Republicans“). What he understands is that the party’s latent Nativism trumps the rest of its ideolog(ies).
Republicanism has always been driven and led by business interests, but its coalition broadened considerably in the 1960s, when it began absorbing Southern Democrats; in the 1970s when it took in formerly Democratic anti-Abortion Catholics, and evangelicals, who had been apolitical for generations; and of course in the 1980s, when Reagan brought in so many blue collar voters. The Cold War consensus had kept isolationists in both parties in the shadows, but under Bush II, Neo-con interventionism rose to the fore again, driving its recently-revenant isolationists back underground.
Trump’s Know-Nothingism resonates strongest with those blue collar and southern voters–who aren’t necessarily in synch with the ruling business interests on taxes (they want low taxes for themselves, but not for the 1 percent), Social Security, and interventionism, or with the evangelicals on moral issues. One of the commenters on my NY Times piece yesterday wrote “America First!” which brought the 1930s to mind in a chilling way.
It’s paradoxical that a billionaire should derive so much from benefit from wage inequality, but it’s not unprecedented–Henry Ford, who was both a more consequential businessman than Trump and a more principled hater, was pressed by rural populists to run for president in the 1920s.
The bottom line for me? Trump could break up the Republican Party, but he could also win.