[ Donald Trump’s appeal to racial resentment worked better than
it should have. The results from Tuesday suggest that his strategy
might have been an effective one, even if it promises to destroy the
country’s social cohesion.] [https://portside.org/] 

 DEMOCRATS DESPERATELY NEED TO FIND AN EFFECTIVE COUNTER TO THE
GOP’S BIGOTRY   [https://portside.org/node/18584] 

 

 Jamelle Bouie 
 November 7, 2018
Slate
[https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/11/democrats-2018-midterms-lessons-gop-bigotry.html]


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 _ Donald Trump’s appeal to racial resentment worked better than it
should have. The results from Tuesday suggest that his strategy might
have been an effective one, even if it promises to destroy the
country’s social cohesion. _ 

 Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by U.S. Congress and iStock/Getty
Images Plus., 

 

As the midterm campaigns came to a close, President Trump made a
gambit: If he appealed to white racial resentment—if he fanned the
flames of racial fear and panic
[https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/10/republicans-blue-wave-resort-to-bigotry.html]—perhaps
he could stanch GOP bleeding and prevent a Republican wipeout. At
rallies, he warned of immigrant crime and disorder. On Twitter, he
portrayed a caravan of Central American migrants as a destructive army
of potential terrorists. Concluding this effort, his presidential
campaign released one of the most flagrantly racist (and starkly
dishonest) political ads
[https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/11/trump-luis-bracamontes-racist-ad.html] in
recent memory, painting all Hispanic immigrants as murderers and
potential murderers.

I thought this was a risky play
[https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/10/donald-trump-bigotry-midterms.html].
Yes, Trump used racist appeals in his 2016 presidential campaign, but
they were tied to his interventionist economic message of
entitlements, health care, and infrastructure. As president, Trump
hasn’t delivered on that full promise. He’s followed through on
the racist appeals with punitive immigration and criminal justice
policy, but he’s rejected a more liberal approach to the economy,
instead embracing Republican orthodoxy with steep tax cuts and a
yearlong effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It was unclear,
from my view, if he could generate similar turnout without a heterodox
pitch on the economy.

The results from Tuesday suggest that his strategy might have been an
effective one, even if it promises to destroy the country’s social
cohesion. Democrats won the House of Representatives, yes, but results
in the Senate—and in several races for governor—show how Trump’s
gambit paid off. After weeks of relentless demagoguery from the
president, the Trump coalition was on war footing, ready to counter an
energized Democratic base. Unsurprisingly, President Trump is treating
Tuesday as vindication of his race-baiting and a victory for the
Republican Party. There’s truth in that analysis. Against a diverse
class of Democrats promising economic security, Trump and the GOP
fielded a largely white and male phalanx of candidates offering
cultural dominance, and in critical places, it worked.

Trump’s strategy supercharged the underlying realignment of the
electorate that we’ve been watching since 2016. Urban and suburban
voters revolted, producing the Democratic majority in the House and
governorships in several states where their turnout can determine
outcomes. Rural and exurban whites also turned out, deepening the red
color of many of the states Trump won in 2016.

The results from Tuesday suggest that his strategy might have been an
effective one, even if it promises to destroy the country’s
social cohesion.

There’s an exception to this dynamic: the Midwest. In Iowa,
Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, Democrats recovered lost
ground thanks to both turnout and persuasion. Candidates there
mobilized suburban and urban voters and recouped enough losses with
working-class whites to secure wins in critical Senate and
gubernatorial races.

You can point to several factors that made the difference for
Democrats in those states versus places like Missouri or Florida,
where Sen. Claire McCaskill and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum
lost their races. Midwestern campaigns capitalized on still-existing
labor infrastructure to mobilize union members and bring them back
into the Democratic fold. College-educated voters are numerous enough
in several of these states to make a key difference, and the president
is deeply unpopular with them. And then there’s the provisional
nature of white working-class Trump support, which likely swung thanks
to the tangible promises of support and benefits that the president
reneged on.

The suburban collapse and Midwestern regression tell an important
story: that Trump can _only_count on his base, which hasn’t
expanded beyond its narrow demographic confines. But “narrow”
isn’t the same as “small.” The president’s racial demagoguery
laid the path for several Republican candidates. Republican Ron
DeSantis worked hard to tie Gillum, his black opponent, to crime and
disorder, and he won the Florida governorship. Indicted congressman
Duncan Hunter of California ran a viciously Islamophobic campaign
against Ammar Campa-Najjar, an American-born Christian, and won.*
Georgia Republican Brian Kemp accused _his_ black opponent, Stacey
Abrams, of ties to black radicals and warned of subversion should she
win the governor’s mansion, and it’s likely to have worked for
him, too.

The problem for Democrats remains the same: Donald Trump’s coalition
of rural and exurban whites is large and geographically
well-distributed. This has given Republicans an advantage in the
Senate, which the party shored up, and it gives Trump a similar
advantage in the Electoral College. Plot Tuesday’s statewide results
onto a map of the 2020 election and—with Ohio and Florida under his
column—Trump is just a stone’s throw from winning re-election.

Make no mistake, Democrats won a victory in the midterm elections.
Their newfound House majority represents a substantial majority of
Americans who want a significant check on the president. And in
building that majority, they’ve increased their gains with
college-educated voters and shown how diverse candidates can prevail
(or come close) in majority-white electorates. And if the Senate map
shows a way forward for the president’s re-election campaign, the
House map—and the wide national Democratic majority—suggests
Democrats have a real path to unseating Trump in two years.

But Tuesday makes equally clear the Democratic Party must find a
response to the president’s political racism. Stoking white fear and
resentment works well enough to energize a powerful electoral
coalition and secure critical victories, and unless Democrats can push
back effectively, they may find themselves losing to Trump for a
second time come November 2020. How they do that is an open question,
but the success of candidates of color—and the near success of
Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia—suggests that
a direct confrontation with the politics of race and division is
possibly the only way forward. 

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