1. $463 million
Despite high job disapproval ratings and the tarnish of being the third president in American history to be impeached, Trump and the Republican National Committee are awash in cash. The Post reported last week, “Trump’s reelection campaign, the Republican Party and two joint fundraising committees together raised a record $154 million in the final three months of the year.”
The flurry of donations was part of a bigger haul. “In all, Trump and the RNC together scooped up a staggering $463 million in 2019,” according to The Post, citing party officials. Here’s another number for you: 600,000. That’s the number of new donors the Trump campaign and party officials say they gained since the impeachment inquiry began in September.
This puts a money figure on what we have known for a long time. Despite kids in cages, siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence, flouting the rule of law by defying subpoenas, and coddling and hiring white supremacists, to name a few of Trump’s many legal and moral offenses, Republicans really support the president and they are putting their money where Trump’s administration is. And the impeachment effort just fuels the political and social grievance Trump revels in and exploits daily.
2. Latinos for Trump
Trump swooped into Miami last Friday to rally evangelicals. That’s hardly a surprise since two weeks earlier, the now-former editor of Christianity Today thundered in an editorial that “Trump should be removed from office.” What was noteworthy was where the president did the rally. Ministerio Internacional El Rey Jesús is a megachurch with a predominantly Latino congregation whose leader, Guillermo Maldonado, is an ally and adviser to Trump. If you think the president’s open xenophobia and scapegoating of Latinos over immigration make him a nonstarter for that voting bloc, you have two blind spots.
Former congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) hit on one of them. He told The Post that because many of the Hispanic congregants at El Rey Jesús are most likely swing voters because they are non-Cuban and therefore not wedded to the Republican Party. “You have to choose whether to go for your base voters or your swing voters,” Curbelo said. “In that congregation [on Friday], you’ll have a lot of people who fit into both categories.”
George Mason University professor Justin Gest hits on the other blind spot about Latino voters that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. The “white panic” over the United States becoming a majority-minority nation by 2044 drives a lot of Trump’s support. But what has made white supremacy so potent is that it will do anything to stay at the center of American political and cultural life, including bestowing whiteness upon those once excluded in order to maintain majority numbers. And one of the reasons it is impossible to squash is the willingness of the once-excluded to accept the invitation to join the fold.
“The European-origin Latinos … who accept this invitation are the Italian, Irish, and Jewish Americans of 100 years before,” argued Gest when I asked him about this. “In exchange for their marginal promotion, they defer to the constructed racial hierarchy that once subordinated them.” Do not underestimate the power and appeal of this deal in the context of the 2020 election. For some Latinos, who otherwise would have been excluded from whiteness, a vote for Trump could be perceived as their claim to de facto “white” membership. And if they are in a swing state such as Florida, they could help hold it for Trump.
3. Blacks for Trump
Nothing was more hilarious than when candidate Trump claimed during the 2016 presidential campaign that he would win 95 percent of their vote in 2020. With an approval rating sitting at 11 percent, it’s safe to say the president will fail, especially after the litany of racist things he has said and done since his inauguration. And, yet, that anemic level of black support is higher than the 8 percent he garnered in the presidential election three years ago or the six percent won by now-Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) during the 2012 presidential election.
That’s why when Trump launched “Black Voices for Trump” at an event in Atlanta in November, I gasped, “Lawd, Jesus!” Politically, it’s a smart move on Trump’s part.
Just as with the Latino vote, Trump’s outreach to African Americans isn’t about winning a majority of their votes. It’s about shaving off enough votes from the expected Democratic hold on the black vote to eke out a win. If the drop-off in black votes that happened between 2012 (President Barack Obama’s reelection) and 2016 happens again in 2020, Trump will win.
A 2017 report from the Center for American Progress showed the result of diminished African American turnout from 2012 to 2016. In Wisconsin, which has a large black population in Milwaukee, there was a 19 percent plummet in turnout among African Americans. A Wisconsin State Journal study of the 2016 election put raw numbers behind that statistic. “Republican Donald Trump received about 2,700 fewer votes than 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney,” the newspaper reported in March 2017, “while Democrat Hillary Clinton received almost 239,000 fewer votes than President Barack Obama, with much of the decline coming in Milwaukee.”
Here’s another reason I gasped: a focus of the “Blacks for Trump” announcement was black men. The attention is devilishly brilliant. First, when we say that African Americans are the foundation of the Democratic Party, the face that emerges is that of a black woman. Understandable since they are the most reliable voters in the United States and the party. What Trump is seeking to exploit is a data point I didn’t notice until I started reporting this piece.
According to the 2016 exit polls, Clinton won black women by 90 percentage points, but her advantage over Trump with black men was just 69 percentage points. Thirteen percent of African American men voted for Trump, and five percent voted for third-party candidates. That’s 18 percent of the black male vote that went to someone other than the Democrat.
This explains why Trump said in Atlanta, “The Democratic Party left you. Today, we say: Welcome to the Republican Party.” This also explains why the Democratic candidates have been turning their attention to African American men on the campaign trail.
The 2020 campaign is not just a fight over the White House. It is a fight for the soul of America and American democracy. And the current president of the United States has proved himself to be a danger to both. Yet, with a ton of cash, Trump will be able to stoke the racial and economic grievances of his base while tapping into voting blocs that feel left behind or want to be brought into the fold.
I’m alert to what Trump is up to because 2020 is a contest that will not be decided by popular vote. It is a contest centered in an electoral college system where untapped votes fracked in unlikely places are the key to victory. Trump is making all the right moves for a 2020 win. But so are the Democrats. I’ll write about that next.
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