New Orleans Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, has started releasing tweets directed at Donald Trump along the theme of “don’t be fooled by a fool.” Undoubtedly he is responding to the chilling cascade of poll results that indicate that Trump and his fellow traveler, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, are winning the popularity contest in the Republican presidential primary with men who are “white, right, and ready to fight,” as the old saying goes. Reports indicate that Trump has 43% support among Republicans with a high school education or less. He also is leading among Republican higher income voters, who I assume think Trump is one of their own and will take care of them, and among women, which is such a head-scratcher that I would have to buy a clue to understand what about Trump is ringing their bell.
As a reigning member of the reader’s fan club for Eduardo Porter, columnist for The New York Times, it is worth mentioning his recent column where he makes a case that voter concerns over identity and its surrogate child, entitlement, “raises the specter of an outright political war along racial and ethnic lines over the distribution of resources and opportunities.” One of the headlines on the piece trumpets that “Racial Identity Returns to American Politics,” which is kind of a surprise since most of us had not realized that it had ever left American politics. Rather than pretending that these largely white Republican men who are overturning the Republican primary are doing so because of economic reversals and transitions, he takes the shine off of that rationale by quoting Mathew Yglesias who is suggesting that Trump’s real appeal is as evil as any might imagine, and his support is coming because these folks embrace his xenophobic and anti-immigrant rants totally. These are hard core conservatives who wish they could turn the clock back 50 years to a time when white people were 83% of the population rather than now at 62% and falling like a rock. Porter goes on to make the point that our miserly social welfare program in the USA stems from such “racial mistrust,” especially compared to Europe or at least Europe before it started going through the throes of the same regressive politics we’re seeing in the run up to Iowa.
Now, whether or not these folks will vote or just root for Trump and the tiny posse of armed occupiers in Oregon who seem pretty much all hat and no cattle so far, is also anyone’s guess. Many believe Trump may have the same problem turning out these lower income whites that progressives have proven they have turning out other low income and immigrant constituencies as well.
Maybe there’s hope if we live long enough and if demographics are destiny, whether white people like it or not. As every year flips over on the calendar the United States gets closer to a blended population where today’s minorities are tomorrow’s majorities, and today’s majority is a distinct, though privileged, minority. Might that mean that we finally can embrace a kinder and gentler social services and welfare regime? Maybe so. Sadly, I would also bet that the transition time will include moderate Hispanics and African-Americans who are conservative enough to appeal to the new minority of whites, similar to the strategy we are now seeing play out with Cruz, Rubio, and even for a hot minute, Dr. Carson. The whacks on the edges are less disturbing to me than the folks in the middle who have a surer path while offering us little hope and relief. Getting to the greener pastures could mean another generation, even though we need to be there now.