As the Brett M. Kavanaugh affair drags on, President Trump was asked Tuesday afternoon by a reporter if he has a message for “young men in America.” Trump said this:
It’s a very scary time for young men in America, when you may be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of. This is a very difficult time. What’s happening here has much more to do than even the appointment of a Supreme Court justice. It really does. You could be somebody that was perfect your entire life, and somebody could accuse you of something … and you’re automatically guilty. But in this realm, you are truly guilty until proven innocent. That’s one of the very, very bad things that’s taking place right now.
Put aside for now the absurd idea that Trump is motivated by any vision of moral desert of any kind. Also put aside the fact, as Eric Levitz has pointed out, that Trump has no discernible worry about how our criminal-justice system dispenses profoundly unjust sentences and punishments to countless “young men in America,” many of whom are of course minorities. What’s remarkable about this is how perfectly pitched this is to Trump’s obviously intended audience — that is, his blue-collar white male base.
This week’s Quinnipiac poll shows how likely it is that these comments will resonate positively with that intended audience. The poll finds that a plurality of Americans opposes the confirmation of Kavanaugh, and believes Christine Blasey Ford is more to be believed than Kavanaugh is. But we obtained an additional breakdown of these numbers from Quinnipiac, and it shows that support and sympathy for Kavanaugh is simply overwhelming among one particular demographic more than any other — that is, non-college-educated white men. The numbers:
- 65 percent of non-college-educated white men support confirming Kavanaugh
- 66 percent of them believe Kavanaugh over Ford
- 69 percent of them believe Kavanaugh is honest
- 64 percent of them approve of Trump’s handling of the Kavanaugh nomination
- 65 percent of them believe Kavanaugh has been treated unfairly
- 72 percent of them believe Kavanaugh has been the target of a smear campaign
It turns out this isn’t simply a male thing, or even a white male thing. These percentages are substantially higher than the percentages among men overall and even among college educated white men.
The reason I bring this up is to add to Ron Brownstein’s new piece, which argues that perceptions of the Kavanaugh affair are deeply shaped not just by the gender divided, but by the class divide as well. Brownstein’s is more focused on how this is playing out among women. He notes that college-educated white women are far more likely to sympathize with Ford than non-college-educated white women are. This is part of a broader pattern in which the Trump era has driven a heavy backlash among educated white women who have tended to tilt Republican, giving Democrats an opening to lock in big gains among that demographic.
But the flip side of this is that the cultural, racial and gender schisms that Trump is very consciously trying to widen, through deliberate provocations of one kind or another, may only be deepening his bond with non-college-educated white men. When Trump presents Kavanaugh as the true victim in this situation, and when he sweepingly declares that the moral of the Kavanaugh story is that men across America are in great danger of unfair persecution, he seems to know exactly what he’s doing.