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Donald Trump’s multiracial populism

For all the cries of ‘racist’, Trump is attracting more black and Hispanic voters than ever before.

Tom Slater

Tom Slater
Editor

Topics Politics USA

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My favourite fact about Donald Trump is that he has actually made the Republicans a more – to use that cringeworthy phrase – ‘diverse’ party. Yes, the man accused of being the most ‘racist’, ‘xenophobic’ politician ever to lead the free world has been steadily gaining support among black and brown Americans.

The numbers don’t lie. ‘Trump’s shares of the nationwide black, Hispanic and Asian vote in 2016 were two, two and three points greater, respectively, than Mitt Romney’s in 2012’, notes the Wall Street Journal. ‘Even as he lost in 2020, Mr Trump improved on his own performance among these segments by four, three and five points, respectively.’

Yes, Democrats retained an overwhelming majority of black voters and a solid majority of Hispanics at the last presidential election, but the trend is undeniable, and perhaps even accelerating. The latest set of New York Times / Siena polls shows Trump and Biden tied among Hispanics and Trump claiming a striking 20 per cent of black voters. If replicated in November, the latter stat would represent the highest level of black support for any Republican presidential hopeful since the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

This is something Trump can legitimately take some credit for. As David Shor, a top Democratic consultant and data wonk, points out: ‘Racial [political] polarisation had been steadily increasing from 1992 up until 2016; 2016 is when it reversed course, and a lot of people thought that was an aberration. But [the 2018 Midterms] and 2020 show it’s not. It is very strange, in some ways, that Donald Trump kicked off an era of racial depolarisation.’

It certainly defies the received wisdom. After Barack Obama’s victory in 2008, the chattering classes became convinced that demographic trends would seal a semi-permanent Democratic majority; that growing proportions of young people, minorities and upper-class professionals would keep America blue forever. It was dubbed the ‘coalition of the ascendant’ – a coinage that perfectly encapsulated both the complacency of the Democratic clerisy and its dismissive posture towards working-class whites.

2016 exploded these shibboleths. Unsurprisingly, the voters Hillary Clinton disparaged as a ‘basket of deplorables’ plumped for Trump across the Rust Belt. Meanwhile, Clinton’s identitarian campaign, enlisting black celebrities to appeal to black voters and putting out videos of her literally breaking a glass ceiling, left ordinary women, blacks and Hispanics feeling cold and patronised.

The Democrats’ growing problem with non-white voters is intertwined with its allergy to the working class in general. Indeed, media outlets are already fretting that Biden’s poor showing among blue-collar black and Hispanic voters could upend his chances in November. Only now are Democratic eggheads beginning to work out that the economic interests and cultural outlook of a Latino construction worker and white construction worker really aren’t all that different. They are both outraged by gender ideology, illegal immigration and Biden’s programme of green economic self-harm. Go figure!

The Democrats look every bit the party of a crumbling regime, clinging on to a system that serves them and their allies and no one else. According to those New York Times / Siena polls, almost 70 per cent of voters say America’s political and economic systems need either radical change or tearing down entirely. This has further corroded Democratic support among ethnic minorities. As well as among the young. Remarkably, Trump is currently neck-and-neck with Biden among 18- to 29-year-olds – another faction of the coalition of the ascendant that appears to be on the verge of defecting. ‘Even many of those who dislike Mr Trump grudgingly acknowledge that he would shake up an unsatisfying status quo’, notes analyst Nate Cohn.

Trump is not exactly the perfect vessel for the fury of the multiracial working class. His economic populism on the campaign trail gave way to standard-issue, tax-cutting Republicanism once he made it into office. His more hardline anti-immigrant rhetoric and tin-eared overtures towards ‘the blacks’ – not to mention his conspiratorial, anti-democratic hissy fit after losing the last election – undoubtedly repel many voters still. But as he pledges to ‘drill, baby, drill’ and stop the chaos at the border, more and more workers, of all pigmentations, see him nudging the needle, however clumsily, in their direction.

Donald Trump may well fall short again in November. Alongside all the tawdry lawfare being waged against him, he has a tremendous propensity for self-destruction. But the multiracial populism he has presided over has the potential to shape American politics for decades to come. The future belongs to whoever can harness it.

Tom Slater is editor of spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics USA

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