Over the weekend, President Donald Trump unleashed a racist tirade against Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
"If racist Elijah Cummings would focus more of his energy on helping the good people of his district, and Baltimore itself, perhaps progress could be made in fixing the mess that he has helped to create over many years of incompetent leadership,” the president tweeted.
If racist Elijah Cummings would focus more of his energy on helping the good people of his district, and Baltimore… https://t.co/Qco3AGoiwI— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1564341500.0
Trump's attack on Cummings comes on the heels of weeks of rants vilifying "the Squad"--four junior lawmakers and women of color. It's widely assumed that the president is going after progressive lawmakers of color to play to his base, comprised in large part of blue color whites in the Rust Belt.
Writing in the Washington Post, columnist Greg Sargent points out that Trump upping the racist ante shows that he's remarkably weak among blue color whites.
After all, he abandoned much of the economic populism he campaigned on to prioritize cracking down on migrants. If the economy is supposedly doing well, but his base is still feeling left behind, then perhaps his base of support is not as strong as it's generally believed -- and that's why he feels the need to stir up racism and xenophobia.
"Republican officials privately say this is a winner, because Trump is “harnessing the anger of those who continue to feel left behind despite the strong economy,” and channeling it by casting Democrats as socialists," Sargent writes.
"Why does Trump need to do this to win reelection, given his own constant suggestion that America is winning everywhere and the Trump economy is the greatest in U.S. history?" Sargent wonders.
"But note the implicit suggestion here that, despite the stupendous Trump economy, non-college-educated white voters are not energized to the degree Trump needs for his reelection campaign. Why?" Sargent asks.
"Well, once in office, Trump abandoned the populist economic nationalism he campaigned on, embracing orthodox GOP plutocracy in the form of a massive corporate tax cut and a failed effort to roll back popular health-care protections that benefited untold numbers in Trump country," he says.
"Meanwhile, his ineffectual trade wars are causing his own constituencies real pain, requiring a taxpayer-funded bailout. There won’t be any big infrastructure package, and Trump and Republicans oppose the minimum-wage hike that House Democrats just passed."
"Former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon has also spoken to this point," Sargent says. "He told journalist Joshua Green that Trump’s campaign populism had two components — the immigration restrictionism and the pro-worker economics — and that, by selling out on the latter, Trump risks leaving himself vulnerable."
"Whatever the role of Trump’s “economic” populism in his victory, what’s left behind here is the crucial fact that Trump’s economic agenda isn’t energizing his base in the manner he needs. We know this due to the admission of Republicans themselves, and it’s illustrated by Trump’s own fallback on racism as a galvanizer."
And, Trump's violent rhetoric might be backfiring. A series of focus groups highlighted in the Atlantic shows that white collar women might be turned off by the President's vitriol.
"The white working-class men look like they are approaching the 2016 margins for Trump, but not the women,” according to veteran Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg. “Clearly the women are in a different place.” Greenberg conducted the focus groups, whose findings were released today, for the American Federation of Teachers."