The Democratic Party right now is running on one brand of fuel. Anti Trump. It cannot continue this way. It may result in wins in 2018 but what about 2020? There is no star power yet emerging in the Democratic Party and former Vice President Joe Biden is still showing up at the top of the polls. There may be a good reason for that. He may be a “safe” candidate in the eyes of voters who made the difference in 2016.
A study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences took a close look using approved scientific methodology at those who had voted for Mitt Romney, Barack Obama earlier and then voted for Donald Trump in 2016 instead of Hillary Clinton. It found “ that change in financial wellbeing had little impact on candidate preference. Instead, changing preferences were related to changes in the party’s positions on issues related to American global dominance and the rise of a majority–minority America: issues that threaten white Americans’ sense of dominant group status.” That dominant group was white, Christian, and heavily men who saw that they were to become the minority by 2046. What changed their vote had little to do with kitchen table, pocketbook issues, but it was their concern that they as a racial and cultural group were losing power.
Those findings of the study sound plausible because they explain much about what has been a puzzle. Why did “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) as a slogan resonate as it did and still does? I remember one attempt by a late night TV host asking Trump supporters waiting to get into a Trump rally, “ back to which date or era would you like to return again ? “ They could only mumble some sort of an unspecific answer. It was not economic disadvantage, either. Most primary voters for Trump were affluent Republicans and their education level was average for Republicans. Most Trump voters in 2016 were not blue collar working class.
What has always left me wondering is why the pocket book kitchen table economic issues Donald Trump’s administration enacted , but had promised, hurt the pocket books of the very middle class for which he claims to speak. He was trying to make health care and college tuition more expensive and he signed a deficit busting tax bill that obviously benefited the already rich and corporations with so little impact on the amount take home pay or was felt by less than 50% of working people. He waffles and backtracks on raising tariffs or supporting trade policies that hurt the midwest farm belt, yet at the same time, his poll number are rising a few points. However his anti immigrant policies toward people of color or of a different religion had nearly guttural approval, laced with exaggerated venom and fear mongering. Trump even calling some Nazi demonstrators “fine people” did not bother his core supporters. The bogey men raised to strike fear in the hearts of misogynist Trump supporters are women, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. His immoral personal behavior has only energized Evangelical Christians since he has supported their political action agenda. His coddling up to Russian election interference has had no impact on poll numbers. After all, Russians were on their side in 2016. What that means now is that traditional Democratic economic pocket book issues are less important planks in a campaign platform than is the cultural, racial, or gender of the candidate they choose in 2020. Factors that could turn this theory upside down are an extremely damning Mueller report or an abrupt economic downturn.
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