(May 26, 2016) The Trump coalition isn’t based on any single ideology or any consistent set of rational policies.
Americans who fear Muslim terrorists love Donald Trump, as do Americans who want to keep out illegal Mexican immigrants. Trade protectionists and foreign-policy isolationists also love Trump. These voting groups, all part of the Trump coalition and all marginalized by elites because of their stance would see themselves as vindicated and count themselves as winners should Trump become president of the United States.
But other important groups, little discussed by the punditry, also embrace Trump for validating the causes that animate them, also form part of the Trump coalition and also stand to be vindicated.
Trump’s success comes of his ability to recognize major visceral issues and then to champion them unapologetically, often through seemingly outlandish positions like making Mexicans pay for a wall. His politically incorrect, categorical positions not only win the public’s approval, they win for Trump intense loyalty.
Global-warming skeptics represent an immense and often passionate demographic. Though skeptics receive little favourable coverage in the mainstream press, polling over the years consistently shows the American public is evenly split on whether human activity imperils the climate, with the most recent Gallup Poll finding only 41 per cent answering yes when asked if “global warming will pose a serious threat to you or your way of life in your lifetime.”
Trump, who has repeatedly mocked global warming as a hoax, is their guy. “Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!” reads one of his tweets. “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice,” reads another. Unlike the Obama administration, which demeans global-warming skeptics and even treats them as criminals, a Trump administration would legitimize their views, enable them to speak their minds freely and end a longstanding indignity.
Trump is also the guy for vaccine skeptics, another large demographic. According to an NPR poll last year, more than one-third of parents under 35 worry about the safety of vaccines. A National Consumers League poll showed 33 per cent of parents and 29 per cent of all American adults believe “vaccinations can cause autism.”
Trump champions the skeptics’ belief that vaccines, if overused, can cause autism. “Autism has become an epidemic,” Trump told CNN in a Republican presidential candidates debate last year, adding “we’ve had so many instances, people that work for me, just the other day, two years old, two-and-a-half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.” Vaccine skeptics also know that former Republican candidate Dr. Ben Carson, who is expected to have a prominent role in a Trump administration, in that same debate supported Trump’s view that children are being over-vaccinated.
While many conservatives doubt Trump’s conservative credentials, he’s a clear hit with conservatives who have a loathing for the United Nations, and see it as a world government in waiting as well as ineffectual, bureaucratic and costly. Anti-UN conservatives also form a sizable demographic. In a Gallup Poll earlier this year, just 17 per cent of Republicans said the “United Nations is doing a good job in trying to solve the problems it has had to face.”
These conservatives support Trump for railing against “the utter weakness and incompetence of the United Nations.” He’s said the UN “is not a friend of democracy, it’s not a friend to freedom, it’s not a friend even to the United States of America where, as you know, it has its home.” Trump’s answer is a much-diminished United Nations, which the U.S. would fund to a much lesser degree.
He recognizes major visceral issues and champions them unapologetically
Trump may also become the candidate for championing Israel, another issue that inflames passions. Until recently, Democrats and Republicans alike backed Israel, but the base of the Democratic party is turning against Israel, and at July’s Democratic convention the pro-Palestinian Bernie Sanders faction will cast Israel as an oppressor of peace-seeking Palestinians. The vitriol certain to be expressed against Israel is likely to alarm Jews, who historically have overwhelmingly voted Democratic, making them open to a Trump charm offensive.
That courtship has already begun. “When you live in a society where athletes and movie stars are the heroes, little kids want to be athletes and movie stars. In Palestinian society, the heroes are those who murder Jews. We can’t let this continue,” Trump recently told AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobby, to cheers and applause.
The Trump coalition isn’t based on any single ideology or any consistent set of rational policies — it is a populist assemblage of largely disparate groups whose common bond is their exclusion from the orthodoxy. These are passionate voters, for whom voting is very personal.