But what if Trump’s efforts to court white backlash constitute one of the essential ingredients of his success among Republican voters?
A new analysis of Washington Post/ABC News polling strongly suggests this may be the case. A Post/ABC national poll this month asked: “Which of these do you think is a bigger problem in this country — blacks and Hispanics losing out because of preferences for whites, or whites losing out because of preferences for blacks and Hispanics?”
A large plurality of Republican respondents nationally say that the bigger problem is whites losing out, by 45-19. I asked crack Post polling guru Scott Clement to break these numbers down among supporters of Trump and the other candidates, and it turns out that Trump supporters believe this in far larger percentages:
A majority of Trump supporters — 54 percent — believe the bigger problem is whites are losing out. Meanwhile, 37 percent of Trump’s supporters believe this strongly, again higher than among any other candidate’s supporters.
To be clear, correlation does not necessarily mean causation, and this is only one of many potential factors explaining Trump’s support. As Clement and Max Ehrenfreund write for Wonkblog, the poll also found that Trump supporters are more likely to say they are struggling economically. But as they explain, when you take these economic findings along with the above views on the racial question, it suggests that Trump supporters tend to believe their “losses are being caused by other group’s gains.”
This is borne out by some anecdotal evidence, too. The Atlantic’s Molly Ball recently talked to dozens of Trump supporters and concluded that many of them are driven by what she characterized as “the idea that they, the others, enjoy privileges, resources, and status to which we are denied access.” Ball concluded that support for Trump is rooted in “a form of racial resentment based on historic white entitlement and a backlash to the upsurge in leftist identity politics that has marked American politics in the age of Obama,” and in the idea that Trump will essentially empower his supporters again.
As Brian Beutler has pointed out, those seeking to account for the Trump phenomenon have regularly downplayed the degree to which raw white identity politics may be fueling his rise, euphemistically rooting his success mainly in “economic anxiety,” with little regard for the appeal that his rank xenophobia and bigotry may hold for many Republican voters. The numbers above suggest that both of these may be two sides of the same coin, and that the tarnished underside of the coin shouldn’t be neglected.
The broader point here is that if this account has some validity to it, Trump will simply laugh and shrug when GOP leaders such as Paul Ryan issue their noble calls for a more elevated campaign tone. After all, such lofty appeals may prove as weak as straw in the face of the darker forces that Trump is tapping into among some segments of the GOP electorate. And as long as Trump has an incentive to stick to his white-backlash strategy, it is that much more likely that he will keep up with the wretched antics that risk driving minorities and young voters further away from the GOP.
Trump won by a decisive 24 percentage points over his nearest competitor, Sen. Ted Cruz. But Cruz defeated Trump in Utah and took all of the state’s 40 Republican delegates after winning more than 50 percent of the vote.
* KEEP AN EYE ON WISCONSIN: The New York Times write-up of last night’s results includes this nugget, on Trump’s chances of winning a majority of delegates outright:
If his opponents fail to defeat him in Wisconsin, where voters go to the polls in two weeks, they are unlikely to stop him from clinching the nomination on the last day of voting in June.
Sanders won handily in Utah and Idaho, but that may have done little to improve his overall standing in delegates against Clinton….Sanders’s victories in Idaho and Utah were expected. Even Clinton’s campaign manager had predicted as much, but said it is still highly improbable that Sanders can ever catch up to her lead in the delegate count.
* TRUMP-MENTUM CONTINUES TO RAGE ACROSS THE LAND: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Trump leads among Republican voters nationwide: He has 43 percent; Ted Cruz has 29 percent; and John Kasich has 16 percent. This is noteworthy:
Trump is “very responsible” for violent incidents at his campaign rallies, 37 percent of American voters say, while 27 percent say he is “somewhat responsible.” Another 12 percent say he is “not so responsible” and 22 percent say he is “not at all responsible.”
So 64 percent say Trump is to some degree responsible for violence at his rallies. However, a total of 78 percent say the protesters also bear some of the blame. Trump wins again!
Cruz…is pushing for Kasich to get out of the race, telling Bill O’Reilly on Fox News on Tuesday night that Kasich “can only be a spoiler.”…”He went 0-for-27, he won his home state and then he’s going to proceed to lose this series of states,” Cruz said, adding, “At this point what he’s doing doesn’t make any sense unless he’s auditioning to be Trump’s vice president.”
Not really. Kasich is hoping to be the candidate who gets selected over Trump at a contested convention. And as long as both Kasich and Cruz continue to vie for that prize, it makes it more likely that Trump wins the nomination outright.
The endorsement, Cruz said, “is further evidence that Republicans are continuing to unite behind our campaign to nominate a proven conservative to defeat Hillary Clinton in November, take back the White House, and ensure a freer and more prosperous America for future generations.”
What this really means is that Cruz is hoping Republicans are beginning to coalesce behind the idea that he should be the consensus choice at a contested convention, and Jeb’s endorsement is significant because it signals that this is possible.
Advisers view the speech…as the adult in national Republican politics and to get activists focused on the emerging agenda that the still-new speaker is trying to craft. “Looking around at what’s taking place in politics today, it is easy to get disheartened,” Ryan is expected to say, according to excerpts of the speech provided by aides. “How many of you find yourself shaking your head at what you see from both sides?”
Well, that’ll get the both-sides-to-blame purveyors swooning, but it won’t do much to stop Trump, especially since Ryan has already pledged to endorse him if he is the nominee.