BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If Donald Trump wins the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, and if David S. Bernstein’s calculations are correct, and it will take an overwhelming and unprecedented majority of white male voters to carry him to the White House. In a story for Politico titled “Donald Trump Needs Seven of Ten White Guys,” Bernstein, a contributing editor at Boston Magazine, writes: “If Trump wins the GOP nomination, he will be testing the limits of a strategy that has long haunted the Republican Party. Since the civil-rights era, Republicans have relied heavily on white male voters to overcome a disadvantage among minorities and some subsets of women. Mathematically, that was an easier strategy a half-century ago, when white men dominated the electorate.”
According to Bernstein, Trump would need seven out of ten white male voters to win the presidency. While that number has never been achieved before, judging from who is turning out at Trump rallies – and going to the polls in primaries -- that number might not be as impossible as you might think.
Ever since Team Nixon devised the Southern Strategy, white voters have been the backbone of the Republican Party. As Bernstein points out, “In 1980, when the electorate looked very different than it does today, Ronald Reagan cruised to an easy victory by winning 63 percent of white males, according to exit polls. In 1988, George H.W. Bush took 63 percent of that group in his rout of Michael Dukakis. By 2004, however, winning 62 percent of white men barely got George W. Bush past John Kerry in a squeaker. And eight years later, Romney won 62 percent of white men — and lost to Barack Obama by 3.5 million votes.”
As demographics shift in the country, Republicans need more and more white males to win a presidential election. Bernstein: “Between Reagan and Romney, the white male share of the total vote had dropped from 45 percent to 35 percent. The two biggest factors: From Reagan to Romney, Hispanics’ share of the national vote soared from 2 percent to 10 percent; and women, post-feminism, jumped from casting 49 percent of all ballots to 53 percent.”
The Party of White Men
In 1996, when Chris Rock was a much younger man, and hosting the Oscars was probably the furthest thing from his mind, he covered a Young Republican rally for Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect” program. Rock, speaking from the floor of the gathering said that being there was like being at "A Million White-Boy March." Eight years later, while covering the 2008 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia for Maher's program, Rock said: "I am the only Black person here. Again."
During the 2008 presidential campaign, rallies for the John McCain/Sarah Palin ticket took on about the same makeup, albeit with a different target; then-Senator Barack he’s-a-Muslim-born-in-Kenya-not-like-us Obama. Over the next few years, angry white people dominated the growth of the Tea Party and made many of their activities look like White Citizens Council rallies. And then there were the debates over Obamacare at town hall meetings conducted by Democratic legislators, which were dominated by angry shouting white people.
And now, in 2016, rallies for Donald Trump are taking on that same ugly character as protesters – many of whom are black -- are pushed, shoved, insulted and in some cases pummeled. Trump’s initial hesitation to denounce David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan with a bevy of southern primaries approaching was more than a mere dog whistle. It was handing red meat to a pit bull.
The Republican Party has a long and unsavory past of stirring up racial animus. Although Trump has concentrated on firing up the base against Muslims – keep them out of the country – and Mexicans – build a wall and make Mexico pay for it -- railing against Blacks is the basic building block of the GOP’s populist DNA.
And now, white supremacists are finding succor at Trump rallies, shouting epithets at, and in some cases roughing up, black protesters. As The Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim and Julia Craven pointed out in “An Open Letter to Non-Racist Donald Trump Supporters,” “White supremacists feel comfortable at, and are allowed to attend, Trump’s rallies and love his message. On Saturday, they came to Washington for a conference to celebrate the boost Trump has given to the white power movement.”
As the primaries move out of the South, will Trump try to cautiously distance himself from white supremacists? And, will white supremacists, understanding that they are hurting their candidate, stay out of the spotlight?
Not likely, as we have seen this past week.