In rebellion against Democrats’ elite-led agenda, Trump’s base stands firm

So far, Donald Trump remains the clear Republican frontrunner, unscathed among his Republican base. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu/IANS)(zcc)

By Arul Louis

New York, Aug 20 (IANS) He has been indicted four times, but former US President Donald Trump’s support within his Republican Party and the electorate is unwavering.

“So far, Donald Trump remains the clear Republican frontrunner, unscathed among his Republican base amid mounting indictments,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the widely respected polling organisation, Marist Institute for Public Opinion.

According to his poll just before the latest charges were filed against Trump in Georgia, 65 per cent of Republicans and sympathisers said they will back the former president in next year’s election — an increase of 8 per cent from a poll three weeks earlier.

The RealClear Politics aggregation of polls shows Trump with 44 per cent support in the general election, almost on par with incumbent President Joe Biden’s 44.4 per cent.

The key to understanding Trump’s solid backing may be an offhand comment made by his rival Hillary Clinton in 2016 when she ran for the presidency calling half his supporters “the basket of deplorables”.

The unwavering support for Trump is his base’s rebellion against those they perceive as the condescending elites.

Her comment illustrates the chasm between the Democratic Party which has increasingly become elitist, despite having a majority of minorities, and the Republican Party, which has turned into a haven for Whites without college degrees — the working class and the underclass, who were once the Democrats’ mainstay, who feel they are disadvantaged.

This has created an estrangement from the Democratic Party for the Whites from those backgrounds, which the billionaire Trump has exploited to emerge paradoxically as their champion through his focus on social issues.

Tech billionaires and their highly-paid employees as well as the superstars of showbiz and culture touting their Democrat identification deepen their rage.

The stark dichotomy is writ in Rockland County’s elected leadership to the west of the nation’s liberal capital New York, and Nassau County’s to its east which are Republican and where “Trump 2024” flags flutter here and there.

The demographics of the two parties have made an about-turn, according to Pew Research.

While in the mid-1990s, the majority of college graduates — 50 per cent — supported the Republican Party, they were only 37 per cent by 2019, while the Democratic Party support among the graduates rose from 42 per cent to 57 per cent during this period.

The Democratic Party is now a coalition of the elites and minorities — whose support has been eroding somewhat among some like Latinos and African American men. 

The shift in the Democratic Party is reflected in its ideological and social priorities, which are driven by the college-educated elite, a significant number of them Whites from the other end of the spectrum.

The party is increasingly identified with issues driven by the elite like lax immigration — bordering on open borders — crime, education and parental rights, and transgender and gay matters overwhelming its economic message.

The elite is mostly inured from the fallout of these policies, while the working class of all hues are more directly affected by them.

While for minorities these effects are offset by what are social justice issues like empowering them and fighting police brutality and racial profiling — as well as the unflinching support for civil rights, which has benefited Indian-Americans too, they don’t have the same relevance to the working class — and underclass — Whites.

In addition to crime and immigration issues, social questions like transgender — boys allowed to use girls’ bathrooms in school when they consider themselves transgender, teachers allowed to use cross-gender names and pronouns for children while keeping it secret from parents — teaching about homosexuality to children below third grade and lessons inspired by the so-called” critical race theory” that question the Independence cause of the US and paint Whites as exploiters at the extreme and in a less volatile form raise questions about privileges that Whites enjoy have inflamed the Trump base.

Possibly driven by some of these issues, support for the Republican Party is also inching up among Latinos and African-Americans.

A Wall Street Journal poll last year found that African-American support for the party candidates in Congressional elections had risen from 8 per cent in 2018 to 17 per cent. 

An EquiLab analysis of 2020 elections found that about 30 per cent of Latino voters picked Trump.

The other driving force for Trump’s supporters is the robust nationalism he advocated — the “America First” and the “Make America Great Again” slogans.

The nostalgia for the low inflation, low-interest rates and high employment during the pre-Covid times of Trump’s reign are also factors.

There is a measure of justification, though, for the interpretation from some in the  Democratic Party that some of these Whites are driven by resentment that their position of assumed superiority has been eroded by the improvement in the status of and empowerment of minorities.

Religion also comes into this mix with Christian Evangelicals — the fundamentalists — showing up in Trump’s core of support, although a chink appears to be emerging.

In 2020, 76 per cent of them voted in 2020 for the twice-divorced self-proclaimed playboy, and in a Monmouth University poll last month 83 per cent said they had a favourable opinion of Trump now entangled in a messy suit involving a porn star, although only 51 per cent wanted him as the Republican candidate in 2024.

Trapped in the Trump vise, the Republican Party’s leadership, if anyone other than Trump can be given the title, is afraid of challenging him and fears his wrath.

Trump, who is boycotting a debate of the party’s candidate’s presidential nomination on August 22, blackmails the party with a threat of running independently if he is not the nominee.

Of the main candidates for the Republican nomination only Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence, former governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Governor Doug Burgum have dared to take him on directly.

Even Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is leading the pack of Trump’s challengers, has avoided attacking him directly, preferring to turn the other cheek to Trump’s constant slaps.

A strategy document prepared for DeSantis for Wednesday’s debate went as far as to suggest that he should “defend Donald Trump in absentia in response to a Chris Christie attack”.

DeSantis and most of the candidates have adopted elements from Trump’s playbook

Other leaders have closed ranks around Trump.

House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the highest-ranking elected official of the party, called the Georgia indictments a “sham”, while accusing Biden of “weaponising” the justice system.

According to an NBC News analysis, only three megadonors — who gave millions — to back Trump in the last election have switched to his rivals’ campaign machinery known as SuperPACs (Political Action Committees) that can circumvent the limits on direct contributions to candidates.

While conventional wisdom may be that another Republican candidate could have a decisive advantage over Biden next year compared to Trump, the current polls don’t reflect that and it gives influential Republicans pause.

While the RealClear Politics aggregation of polls give Biden only a 0.4 per cent lead over Trump, he is ahead of DeSantis by 2.4 per cent if he is matched against him.

According to other reports Trump raised $13.5 million in the week after the indictment. And donations spiked to its highest level yet in this election cycle for him on April 4, the day he was arraigned in a Manhattan court in connection with this case — the day’s collection peaked to $3.9 million.

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