Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Trump bets his presidency on a ‘silent majority’

Donald Milhous Trump. I’ve always thought Trump resembled nothing quite so much as the Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, Spiro Agnew, etc. Republicans from the 70s. He’s not the supply-side dogmatist that emerged during the 80s, and his foreign policy approach is more in the vein of Kissinger’s Machiavellian realism than Reagan’s Crusaderism or the Jacobinism of the neocons. He doesn’t give a damn about the social conservatism of the religious right unless he can get some political mileage out of it. And the Sanders crowd strongly resembles the McGovernites.

Trump’s handling of the pandemic has not been popular, and obviously, he can’t run on the economy. The law and order angle certainly provides him with an opportunity. But the problem is that it’s no longer 1968 or 1972. The fragmentation of the upper-middle class into warring Red/Blue teams with the dominant sectors of the upper-middle class increasingly moving leftward makes a Nixonian strategy less viable now than it was 50 years ago. Think of it as Fred Dutton’s revenge.

By David Siders


With his law-and-order, tough-on-protesters rhetoric, Donald Trump is betting his presidency it still exists.

The suburbs — not the red, but sparsely populated rural areas of the country most often associated with Trump — are where Trump found the majority of his support in 2016. Yet it was in the suburbs that Democrats built their House majority two years ago in a dramatic midterm repudiation of the Republican president.

Now, Trump’s approach to the violence and unrest that have gripped the nation’s big cities seems calibrated toward winning back those places, in the hopes that voters will recoil at the current images of chaos and looting — as they did in the late 1960s — and look to the White House for stability.

“There’s a lot of concern about the way the Minneapolis police acted,” said former Rep. Tom Davis, a seven-term Republican from the suburbs of Northern Virginia. “But whenever you start looting — and now the stuff’s spread out to Leesburg, it’s in Manassas … the politics takes a different turn.”

In Minnesota alone — where Floyd died and where protests have roiled Minneapolis and St. Paul — the state Democratic Party estimates there are 250,000 white, non-college educated men who are eligible to vote but aren’t registered — more than five times the number of votes Trump would have needed to catch Hillary Clinton in the state in 2016.

“It’s what keeps me awake at night,” said Pete Giangreco, a Democratic strategist who has worked on nine presidential campaigns. “I think there are a lot more people who support this president who didn’t vote last time than opposed this president and didn’t vote last time. That is how they win.”

Trump, he said, “is playing to them, fanning the flames of division instead of what just about every other president in our lifetimes — Republican or Democrat —would do.”

It is unclear how much more Trump can squeeze from his base. Rural areas have few voters to offer, Democratic-heavy cities detest the president, and the once-bright lines between them and the suburbs have blurred as people of color diversified the commuter belts and wealthy whites gentrified urban cores.

“You can’t do what Nixon called for what ‘law and order’ meant in the 1960s and ever have it succeed in America in 2020,” said Paul Maslin, a top Democratic pollster who worked on the presidential campaigns of Jimmy Carter and Howard Dean.



Leave a Reply