Posted by Curt on 1 February, 2016 at 11:18 am. 12 comments already!


Jay Cost:

In a three-part series on the Trump phenomenon, Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics argues that Donald Trump is the avatar of working-class anxieties within the Republican party. As he sees it, Trump is potentially “a more credible Santorum/Huckabee candidate.” That’s why poll after poll shows, “he draws his strength from the same sorts of downscale, less-educated voters with loose ties to the Republican Party.”

Writing at Politico, Tucker Carlson seems to think the balance of power is shifting decisively toward the Trump coalition because of the hubris of the party leadership. On immigration, he argues, “If you live in an affluent ZIP code, it’s hard to see a downside to mass low-wage immigration. Your kids don’t go to public school. You don’t take the bus or use the emergency room for health care. No immigrant is competing for your job. (The day Hondurans start getting hired as green energy lobbyists is the day my neighbors become nativists.) Plus, you get cheap servants, and get to feel welcoming and virtuous while paying them less per hour than your kids make at a summer job on Nantucket. It’s all good.” However, the great mass of the GOP sees something different, and love Trump.

But politics rarely takes on as straightforward a form as Carlson describes. Consider, for instance, the anxiety over Trump that Dan McLaughlin of RedState notes among “regular Republicans.” According to McLaughlin, these are reasonably informed, middle- or upper-middle class voters who reliably vote Republican, do not draw a living from politics, still see the GOP as representing mainstream conservatism, and care deeply about electability and national stewardship. Trump scares the bejesus out of them. I myself have noted this anxiety among my friends and neighbors, none of whom lives in an “affluent ZIP code,” most of whom are college educated, and none of whom is all that worried about Hondurans taking their jobs.

As Trende notes, party coalitions are big, unwieldy, and ever-changing. To this it might be added that the rule of party competition is winner-take-all; ours is not a system of proportional representation. Thirty percent of the vote might equal 30 percent of the parliamentary seats in a European country, but at the Republican convention in Cleveland this summer, if you fall one delegate short of a majority, you get nothing.

So a question worth asking is: Just how large is Trump’s base coalition? Is it bigger than the mass of “regular Republicans” about whom McLaughlin writes? Here are some relevant facts about Mitt Romney general election coalition from 2012:

-66 percent made at least $50,000 per year.

-32 percent made at least $100,000 per year.

-77 percent had at least some college education.

-48 percent had at least a college degree.

-72 percent were married

-53 percent attended church at least weekly

-59 percent thought abortion should generally be illegal

It looks to me like the “regular Republicans”—whom I often conceive of as the married, churchgoing middle class—constituted the majority of the Romney coalition in 2012. It is worth pointing out that they were probably a larger share of the 2012 primary electorate, as people higher up on the socioeconomic scale tend to be more likely to vote in low-turnout contests like primaries.

In other words, Trump’s base alone is not large enough to win a majority of the Republican electorate. Sure, he might win the Iowa caucus tonight, but that is because a non-Trump majority is scattered across half a dozen other candidates. He will have to pull in a not-insubstantial portion of the regular Republican vote to win the nomination once the field condenses.

And therein lies the great task of anti-Trump conservatives, those of us who believe that Trump is a liberal and a demagogue who manifestly lacks the temperament and discipline to be president of the United States. The leaders of this coalition must persuade those regular Republicans not to switch to Trump as the field consolidates.

The recent poll of Iowa from the Des Moines Register—widely considered a very good survey of the Hawkeye State—suggests that this is doable. The poll found that 60 percent of Iowa Republicans were bothered by Trump’s aggressive use of eminent domain, and 56 percent were bothered by his previous support of abortion (and in fact this latter number might be understated, for the pollster used the leftist phrase “late-term abortion” rather than “partial-birth abortion,” which has more salience among conservatives).

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