The Dangers Of A Minority That Believes It's A Majority And Deserves To Be So
Josh Marshall has hit upon something very important that we all need to understand about the coalition behind Trump’s success. Marshall points to a truly heinous article by Michael Barone in which he declares the Electoral College as the only thing standing in the way of America becoming California’s colonial empire. Says Barone, “White middle class families have been pretty well priced out of the state by high taxes and housing costs, and the Hispanic and Asian immigrants who have replaced them vote far more Democratic…California’s 21st century veer to the left makes [the Electoral College] a live issue again. In a popular vote system, the voters of this geographically distant and culturally distinct state, whose contempt for heartland Christians resembles imperial London’s disdain for the ‘lesser breeds’ it governed, could impose something like colonial rule over the rest of the nation. Sounds exactly like what the Framers strove to prevent.” Barone’s solution, of course, is to have Democrats abandon the extreme left ideology represented by the state of California. Says Barone, “If California continues to occupy one extreme of the national political spectrum, there may well be more such splits [between the Electoral College and the popular vote]. At least unless and until the Democratic Party figures it needs more to make a case with more appeal beyond California if it wants to win 270 electoral votes.” Apparently, “one man, one vote” is just a quaint concept for Barone.
Marshall’s larger point is that Barone’s article reflects the true realization the current Republican “majority” can not long survive in a real democracy. It is a recognition that they truly are a minority party and they resent being disdained as “lesser breeds”, as Barone puts it, by the real majority in this country. Of course, the simple thought they are considered as such just shows how insecure Republicans are about their position, even as they control all the levers of government. As Marshall puts it, “This is the mindset of a person and I think a political movement that fears that their power cannot be maintained in the context of majoritarian democracy. It’s of a piece with voter suppression, voter ID checks, expulsion of undocumented immigrants – the nationalist surge that drove the outcome of this election.” I have made this point time and time again over the last year and this recognition of potential of almost permanent minority status has driven the GOP to become a party that no longer believes in democracy. And I touched on it again briefly yesterday in discussing the continuing surge in hate crimes long after the “euphoria” of the election should have subsided and when emotions would normally have expected to calm. It speaks to a deep-seated insecurity despite having won the election and all the levers of power.
Earlier this summer, I had posted about an interview that conservative scholar Samuel Goldman had with Zach Beauchamp on Vox. In that interview, Goldman proposed that the Republican party had become a white, Christian nationalist party that really had nothing in common with traditional Republican conservatives and that, sooner rather than later, principled conservatives, assuming there are any remaining, would have to leave the party and find or build a new home. But he accurately describes the Trump coalition as a large minority that is large enough that it allows them to believe they are a majority. Says Goldman, “One of the difficulties is what you might call the Trump bloc. I’m using this to refer to a silent majority that isn’t a majority and is not particularly silent: whites, generally older, generally less educated, although of course with exemptions for all of those generalizations. [This group] is a very, very awkward size. It seems to be somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the electorate, which is big enough that it feels like a majority but small enough that it isn’t actually a majority. That’s a very uncomfortable place to be, politically, because smaller groups come, I think, to appreciate that they have to compromise and form coalitions. Larger groups can just win. But this group doesn’t seem small enough to compromise or big enough to win. That makes people very angry. I think some of that anger is reflected not just in Trump’s campaign but in the sort of rhetoric you see around the rallies. And everyone has seen the footage of people who are just hopping mad in a way that I suspect is alien not just to the journalists that cover them but also to movement conservatives who have claimed to speak for them in the past.” The only thing I would add to Goldman’s analysis is that the perceived loss of white privilege is an additional driving factor in their anger. Please read the whole interview because Goldman has some interesting insights into the our current political environment.
Unfortunately, Goldman was wrong about the Trump bloc not being big enough to win but that was only due to the un-democratic nature of the Electoral College and the heavy hand of James Comey. And he was close to his 40% threshold of Trump voters as Trump only garnered 46% of the popular vote. I believe that Trump is actually the first President in history who will have received a minority of both the primary and popular vote. But there is a recognition by Republicans that the chances that they will not be overwhelmed by the changing demographics of this country are getting slimmer and slimmer. By the 2020 election, whites will probably make up less than 50% of the population. And that is what makes the coming Trump administration so incredibly dangerous. The Republican party realizes that this may be its last chance to roll back the elements of the New Deal that they have been fighting for nearly three-quarters of a century. There is no chance of compromise because the party will only be weaker as time moves on. There is no chance for moderation because their supporters are angry and have no willingness to moderate. Any sign of weakness will be met by a challenge from even further to the right. There is a reason there are so few, if any, “reasonable Republicans” left, especially among those with elected positions. And, with time running out, their supporters filled with rage, and at the full height of their powers, the mantra of the party has really become “by any means necessary”. That led to the refusal to even give Merrick Garland a hearing. And it will mean the destruction of even more norms of governance and a further erosion, if not destruction, of democracy in this country. There are dangerous days ahead.