A New York Times article from last September that went viral only recently: Crying Wolf, Then Confronting Trump. It asks whether Democrats have “cried wolf” so many times that nobody believes them anymore. And so:
When “honorable and decent men” like McCain and Romney “are reflexively dubbed racists simply for opposing Democratic policies, the result is a G.O.P. electorate that doesn’t listen to admonitions when the genuine article is in their midst”.
I have a different perspective. Back in October 2015, I wrote that the picture of Trump as “the white power candidate” and “the first openly white supremacist candidate to have a shot at the Presidency in the modern era” was overblown. I said that “the media narrative that Trump is doing some kind of special appeal-to-white-voters voodoo is unsupported by any polling data”, and predicted that:
If Trump were the Republican nominee, he could probably count on equal or greater support from minorities as Romney or McCain before him.
Now the votes are in, and Trump got greater support from minorities than Romney or McCain before him. You can read the Washington Post article, Trump Got More Votes From People Of Color Than Romney Did, or look at the raw data (source)
Trump made gains among blacks. He made gains among Latinos. He made gains among Asians. The only major racial group where he didn’t get a gain of greater than 5% was white people. I want to repeat that: the group where Trump’s message resonated least over what we would predict from a generic Republican was the white population.
Nor was there some surge in white turnout. I don’t think we have official numbers yet, but by eyeballing what data we have it looks very much like whites turned out in equal or lesser numbers this year than in 2012, 2008, and so on.
The media responded to all of this freely available data with articles like White Flight From Reality: Inside The Racist Panic That Fueled Donald Trump’s Victory and Make No Mistake: Donald Trump’s Win Represents A Racist “Whitelash”.
I stick to my thesis from October 2015. There is no evidence that Donald Trump is more racist than any past Republican candidate (or any other 70 year old white guy, for that matter). All this stuff about how he’s “the candidate of the KKK” and “the vanguard of a new white supremacist movement” is made up. It’s a catastrophic distraction from the dozens of other undeniable problems with Trump that could have convinced voters to abandon him. That it came to dominate the election cycle should be considered a horrifying indictment of our political discourse, in the same way that it would be a horrifying indictment of our political discourse if the entire Republican campaign had been based around the theory that Hillary Clinton was a secret Satanist. Yes, calling Romney a racist was crying wolf. But you are still crying wolf.
I avoided pushing this point any more since last October because I didn’t want to look like I was supporting Trump, or accidentally convince anyone else to support Trump. But since we’re past the point where that matters anymore, I want to present my case.
I realize that all of this is going to make me sound like a crazy person and put me completely at odds with every respectable thinker in the media, but luckily, being a crazy person at odds with every respectable thinker in the media has been a pretty good ticket to predictive accuracy lately, so whatever.
First, I want to go over Donald Trump’s official, explicit campaign message. Yes, it’s possible for candidates’ secret feelings to differ from their explicit messages, but the things they say every single day and put on their website and include in their speeches are still worth going over to see what image they want to project.
Trump’s official message has been the same vague feel-good pro-diversity rhetoric as any other politician. Here’s Trump on African Americans:
When I am President, I will work to ensure that all of our kids are treated equally, and protected equally. Every action I take, I will ask myself: does this make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Ferguson who have as much of a right to live out their dreams as any other child in America?
It is my highest and greatest hope that the Republican Party can be the home in the future and forevermore for African-Americans and the African-American vote because I will produce, and I will get others to produce, and we know for a fact it doesn’t work with the Democrats and it certainly doesn’t work with Hillary.
African-American citizens have sacrificed so much for this nation. They have fought and died in every war since the Revolution, and from the pews and the picket lines they have lifted up the conscience of our country in the long march for Civil Rights. Yet, too many African-Americans have been left behind.
No group in America has been more harmed by Hillary Clinton’s policies than African-Americans. No group. No group. If Hillary Clinton’s goal was to inflict pain on the African-American community, she could not have done a better job. It’s a disgrace. Tonight, I am asking for the vote of every African-American citizen in this country who wants a better future.
And at the end of four years I guarantee that I will get over 95% of the African-American vote. I promise you. Because I will produce for the inner-cities and I will produce for the African-Americans.
America must reject the bigotry of Hillary Clinton who sees communities of color only as votes, not as human beings worthy of a better future.