Donald Trump has won the Republican nomination for President and will be the Republican nominee. Forget anything else; he won across the board on Super Tuesday, adding to his wins in a New England Yankee state (New Hampshire); a southern evangelical state (South Carolina), and a Western suburban state (Nevada). It is all over.
So how did he do it? Two words explain it: racial resentments. Very simply, Donald Trump appealed to a deep prejudice of racial and cultural resentment among Republican voters. In an America undergoing rapid demographic change, the Republican electorate is overwhelmingly white and elderly. In 2009, Republicans were mystified that an African American with a funny name took over the country. Then their worst fears were realized when his appointees and his policies seemed to many to favor non-whites over white people; and in these seven years deep white resentment has built up.
When Trump announced with a broadside against Mexican immigrants as rapists and robbers most of the GOP elite thought he was appealing only to small fringe of bigots, but then they found that his assault on Mexicans garnered wide support among the Republican electorate.
Forget that most illegal Mexicans pick veggies and make beds, jobs Republicans are not likely to want. There is a fear among older whites that the huge numbers of Latinos in this country are somehow a threat to the American culture. Trump’s call to deport 11 million of them found a receptive audience. Then his denunciation of Muslims reinforced it; he will get rid of the Mexicans and keep the Muslims out.
Trump well understood how to dog whistle the race card. Notice that his assaults on the countries that cheat us in trade are aimed at China, Japan and Mexico, not at white Europeans. His message resonates among resentful white voters who feel left behind in the new information age economy. Simply put, those sneaky Asians are just picking our pockets.
For a near majority of Republican voters, this dovetails with their deep resentment of President Obama. He has gotten away with socializing health care; and they are paying the price for Obamacare. He is legalizing illegal aliens, and they will pay for all their benefits. And in foreign policy, he favors Muslin countries, because many believe Obama is one, which is why he pushed the Iran deal over our traditional allies like Israel.
Republicans also know they have lost the so-called cultural wars; gay marriage, floods of illegal immigrants, and now soon every restroom in American will be transgender. And they are mad, and they want a champion to fight back for them. So along came Donald Trump with an appeal to every one of their prejudices.
And as the election unfolded, Trump got stronger with every outrageous statement. Does anyone remember that Trump, who had numerous deferments in the Vietnam War, denounced Sen. John McCain for being captured by the North Vietnamese? Bret Stephens in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal describes the Republican voters for Trump very well: “With the instinct of house flies, they recognize the familiar smell, and they want more of it.”
Prejudice is a deep emotion. Who would have believed a year ago that a reality TV star would destroy a family that gave us two Republican presidents; but Donald Trump did exactly that to the Bush family. Republican voters have validated his argument that George W. Bush is all but a war criminal. It is just incredible; Trump has managed to throw the Bush family that has been part of American politics for a half century onto the trash heap of history.
But the Trump phenomenon does not stop there. He will be the most liberal Republican nominee for president since Wendell Willkie in 1940, the “barefoot boy from Wall Street.” Willkie, who like Trump had been a Democrat most of his life, had no ideology and ran on his oversized personality to seize the Republican nomination in 1940, defeating the whole conservative Republican establishment in the process.
Sound familiar; Trump has won by running a non-ideological campaign, in fact, no one really believes Trump has any ideology at all. He is already running a general election campaign, praising government run health care and Planned Parenthood. The conservative GOP establishment, led by National Review and the Weekly Standard, find themselves, to borrow from George Frederick Handel, despised, rejected and acquainted with grief as the Republican electorate abandons a conservative Republicanism that dates to Reagan and beyond.
Sen. Ted Cruz was supposed to be the true conservative candidate; he has bombed in the South, supposedly his strongest area. Sen. Marco Rubio was the establishment and the neoconservative darling; he only won the Minnesota caucus on Tuesday. Polls show that on March 15 Rubio will lose Florida – he is probably way behind in the early voting – and it will all be over.
So it is that Mr. Trump has emerged as the Republican nominee, the only question left in American politics is can he beat Hillary Clinton in November. And that is a much different matter.