It’s certain that The Donald will have an impact on the 2016 Presidency, whether he is nominated or not. Consider what Monday brought. The New York Times posted a long-form piece insightful of Trump’s rise at the expense of GOP Elite. It’s not a liberal hit piece.
… the story is also one of a party elite that abandoned its most faithful voters, blue-collar white Americans, who faced economic pain and uncertainty over the past decade as the party’s donors, lawmakers and lobbyists prospered. From mobile home parks in Florida and factory towns in Michigan, to Virginia’s coal country, where as many as one in five adults live on Social Security disability payments, disenchanted Republican voters lost faith in the agenda of their party’s leaders.
Right and Far right Republicans in Ari Fleischer and Laura Ingraham both state in the piece that the Elites that directed the party leadership have to reckon with how they left behind a sizable piece of the GOP electorate.
Perhaps the mantra the Bill Clinton rode to his 1992 victory, “It’s the Economy, Stupid” evaded the elites. The lower-middle and middle-middle classes have not recovered from the free trade deals and the Great Recession of the past 20 years. Politicians – left and right – get so far immersed in their analytics and think tanks, that sometimes they just miss the forest for the trees:
Between 2008 and 2012, according to the Pew Research Center, more lower income and less educated white voters shifted their allegiance to Republicans.
These voters had fled the Democratic Party and were angry at Mr. Obama, whom they believed did not have their interests at heart. But not all of them were deeply conservative; many did not think about politics in ideological terms at all.
The mistake the GOP made was thinking that Americans by nature were leaning more Conservative and therefore “Elites” felt their loss in 2012 was that they didn’t choose a “Conservative-enough” candidate. The bigger mistake was made by the Democrats, who have embraced a bigger tent for diverse folks but left no room for the working class whites. They appear no better prepared to open the tent flap.
Latch on to these two phrases from the article about these non-ideological Republican-come-lately working class folks, for it may be the un-doing of Senate control for the GOP:
They opposed free trade more than any other group in the country.
They saw illegal immigration not only as a cultural and security threat, but also as an economic one, intertwined with trade deals that had stripped away good manufacturing jobs while immigrants competed for whatever work remained.
The evidence that this concept is a strong one with voters continued today in Ohio as well, where incumbent Senator Rob Portman will have to fend off former Congressman and Governor Ted Strickland to retain his seat. The craftily monikered Senate Majority PAC launched a TV ad against Portman late last week that sounds Trump-like in its roots.
Make no doubt that Ohio, despite voting for its own Governor in the GOP Primary, has a significant rust-belt, blue-collar pro-Trump demographic. The Columbus Dispatch noted the voting record of Portman and Strickland:
…the voting records of Strickland and Portman are polar opposites. As a member of the U.S. House from 1993 through 2005, Portman voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico and for Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China. When he was U.S. trade representative under President George W. Bush in 2005, Portman helped guide the Central American Free Trade Agreement through Congress. By contrast, as a member of the House, Strickland opposed NAFTA, permanent trade relations with China and the Central American pact.
- Free trade is key issue in Ohio race for U.S. Senate, Columbus Dispatch, March 20, 2016
This underscores how Trump’s appeal is not GOP as much as it is demographic. Regardless of whether or not he is the nominee, the Trump Effect with immigration and jobs is going to put a lot of GOP legislators up against the ropes. In Ohio, Senator Portman may swing for it this Fall.