The past few weeks have seen Trump caricature Baltimore, a predominantly black East Coast city that backed Hillary Clinton in 2016, as “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess”; tell nonwhite American lawmakers who have criticized his presidency to “go back” where they came from; and play into stereotypes about black Americans in his response to the international jailing of a rapper.
While the president has been heavily criticized for these slights against black Americans, he has repeatedly doubled down on them, appearing more concerned about what his supporters think than the critics’ scorn.
The Washington Post’s Toluse Olorunnipa and Ashley Parker reported over the weekend:
But Trump’s advisers had concluded after the previous tweets that the overall message sent by such attacks is good for the president among his political base — resonating strongly with the white working-class voters he needs to win reelection in 2020.This has prompted them to find ways to fuse Trump’s nativist rhetoric with a love-it-or-leave-it appeal to patriotism ahead of the 2020 election, while seeking to avoid the overtly racist language the president used in his tweets about the four congresswomen.. . .Republican officials say Trump is harnessing the anger of those who continue to feel left behind despite the strong economy, and steering their fury toward members of Congress he has accused of bad-mouthing the country and embracing socialist policies.
But the Trump team’s inclination to care mostly — if not only — about the president’s most loyal supporters has proved an ineffective strategy in the past.
Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent wrote about this after Vice President Pence and senior adviser Stephen Miller defended Trump’s “racist” attacks against four Democratic congresswomen of color as resonating with the president’s base. Sargent wrote: “In 2018, this argument did not work to the degree Republicans needed among white voters. Democrats won a large popular majority fueled in part by massive defections to them among suburban, college-educated whites, particularly women.”
And a recent CBS poll suggests that even voters from demographic groups Trump previously won are rejecting the racist ideology that the president is strongly leaning into as a political strategy.
A majority of white voters (52 percent) disagree with the attacks, and nearly half (49 percent) say they dislike them. Most (51 percent) white voters say they’re unpresidential, and more than four in 10 white voters say the tweets are racist.
The president has expressed little interest in winning swing voters in 2020 despite their key role in his previous win.
Asked whether he should reach out to swing voters, Trump told Time magazine: “I think my base is so strong, I’m not sure that I have to do that.”
But what Trump does not seem to acknowledge is that he may not be able to solely rely on the white working-class voters in the upper Midwest to win in 2020. He may need college-educated, white professionals from the coastal suburbs to remain in the Oval Office. After all, that is what got him there in the first place.
The Trump team also seems to dismiss the possibility of a record-level high turnout for Democrats in 2020 — the factor that made 2018 a wave for them, winning back the House and taking state races across the country. Sure, there is a prospect that the white working-class voters who backed Trump because of cultural anxieties will continue to do so now that he is more boldly embracing the rhetoric that he knows appeals to them. He’s placing a big bet that will be enough to override a potentially motivated left and those on the political margins who supported Trump last time and now feel the rhetoric has become untenable.
Even as analysts — and the Trump campaign — continue to cite the fears and concerns of white working-class voters in 2016, they may be disregarding the possibility that another form of cultural anxiety exists, as well: the fear among liberals of a United States where racism will go unchecked as never before.