On Tuesday, writing for The New York Times, columnist Jamelle Bouie said that President Donald Trump’s effort to bait his base with racism and grievance politics won’t be able to save him from electoral doom.
“Donald Trump made his name in Republican Party politics as a ‘birther,’ a true believer in — and an evangelist for — the racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was a foreign-born, illegitimate president,” wrote Bouie. “Having stoked a wave of white grievance and resentment, Trump rode it, first to influence — let’s not forget that Mitt Romney came to receive Trump’s endorsement in person during the 2012 presidential race — and then to the summit of power as president himself.”
Now, faced with a pandemic, economic crisis, and civil rights protests, Trump thinks this same bluster can get him out of this mess — as evidenced by his promise to defend racist monuments from the “left wing mob” and his attacks on NASCAR for banning the Confederate battle flag.
“With enough racist demagogy, Trump seems to think, he’ll close the gap with Biden and eke out another win in the Electoral College,” wrote Bouie. “But it is one thing to run a backlash campaign, as Trump did four years ago, in a growing economy in which most people aren’t acutely worried about their lives and futures. In that environment, where material needs are mostly met, voters can afford to either look past racial animus or embrace it as a kind of luxury political good. When conditions are on the decline, however, they want actual solutions, and the politics of resentment are, by themselves, a much harder sell.”
History, Bouie argued, shows Trump’s strategy can’t work.
“We have something of a comparison point in the 2008 election, when Sarah Palin brought Trump-like energy to the Republican presidential ticket, nearly eclipsing John McCain, the presidential nominee,” wrote Bouie. “She drew huge crowds with furious denunciations of Obama that centered on a sense of him as foreign and un-American … And yet the kinds of voters Palin tried to appeal to — the kinds of voters who would eventually back Trump — stayed, for the most part, within the Democratic fold that year. They may have been uncomfortable with the idea of a Black president, but they were outright opposed to another four years of Republican economic policy.”
“Or consider George Wallace, whose politics of cultural rage and racial resentment resonated with voters at a moment, the late 1960s, of relative security and prosperity, not decline and desperation,” continued Bouie. “It’s not that demagogues never triumph in bad economic conditions, but that good times may bring some voters to feel that they can afford to vote their resentments.”
“Trump can spend the next four months raging against protesters, defending Confederate monuments and attacking Black celebrities,” concluded Bouie. “He can play the hits for his supporters and whip his most devoted followers into a frenzy of MAGA enthusiasm. He can turn up the racism dial as much as he wants and as far as it will go. But if he’s looking for approval, he won’t get it.”
You can read more here.