Slate's Jamelle Bouie asks the obvious question about Donald Trump: is he benefiting from the Republican's massive racist backlash against President Obama directly, or is the media narrative of "working-class populism" the truth?
There is no question that Trump has run the most unapologetically racist and nativist campaign since George Wallace made his first national play in 1964. And, like Wallace before him, it’s been successful, drawing tens of thousands of people to massive rallies across the country. Trump probes their fears, excites their passions, and gives them voice in a way they love and understand. “We have losers. We have people that are morally corrupt. We have people that are selling this country down the drain,” Trump declares.
These voters may feel anxious about their economic status. But they also hold racial and cultural resentments. They’re worried about their futures and they dislike immigrants, Muslims, and blacks.
On Monday, the Washington Post looked at the white supremacists and white nationalists who cheer Trump as an asset to their movement. Trump has opened “a door to conversation” and “electrified” some members of the movement, says one leader in the Ku Klux Klan. “I think a lot of what he says resonates with me,” says David Duke, a “Grand Wizard” in the Klan and former Louisiana politician.
In a similar piece for the New Yorker, writer Evan Osnos spoke to Jared Taylor, a prominent white nationalist who described the situation as such. “I’m sure he would repudiate any association with people like me,” said Taylor, “but his support comes from people who are more like me than he might like to admit.”
These voices are self-serving, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Trump has shot to the top, fueled by vicious rhetoric against Latino immigrants and Syriain refugees. He has shared racist memes about black Americans and called for a ban on Muslim travel to the United States. And each time, his support ticks higher.
Economic anxiety plays a part here. But maybe Trump has discovered something we all like to deny: That in the 21st century, the racist vote is larger, louder, and more influential than we ever thought.
Not racist, the joke goes, just number one with racists.
And after years of racism and bigotry being directed at Barack Obama, of course whoever wins the GOP nomination in 2016 would be the heir to this 50-state Southern Strategy. Romney wasn't able to dog whistle his way into it, being too cute by half got him into trouble with his campaign-ending "47 percent" remark.
Donald Trump does not have this problem. He's outright racist, overtly disgusting, loudly and proudly bigoted, and he knows our media will bend over backwards showcasing him as a regular guy, they have no choice. He knows the game better than they do.
But yes, the last remnants of the Confederacy have long been with us and always will be. Trump tapped into them on purpose and by some measures he's above 40% in the crowded GOP field, and every awful weekly tirade only adds another two or 3 points to his total.
If you're suddenly expecting "undecided" Republicans to stand up to him after he starts winning primaries, you're deluded. Trump is looking more and more like the GOP pick, and he will absolutely get 45% of the vote, minimum, against any Democrat next November.