Thursday, November 05, 2020

The Trump Coalition: Grievances & Single Issue Voters

The Trump GOP is a strange coalition that has defied pollsters and political scientists. Trump has built a coalition of a people who feel left behind, the same people who voted for BrExit because they wanted to go back to better times but Trump added to this a large amalgamation of causes, causes that are mostly on the decline but are deeply meaningful and added to that the traditional GOP small government, low taxes agenda. It’s ultimately composition and mindset of the Trump GOP that make it difficult for pollsters to track. 

Most of the primary Trump GOP causes are ultimately minority positions, threatened by changing demographics. This will apply to issues such as guns, abortion, faith schools, gay marriage etc. It also applies to issues such as the environment and rejection of science whenever it leads to regulation. Add to that issues like immigration from the legitimate calls for improved controls to those on the fringe wanting to Make America white and Christian Again (racist / supremacist causes). Finally the classic issues of conservatism, low taxes, anti welfare, anti government mandated safety net, anti health care mandates.

Each of the causes above is under threat and is losing popular support. Trump built a coalition of single issue voters who are willing to overlook everything else as long as their narrow interests are advanced. Trump added to this a number of single issue foreign policy agenda, the one with the most obvious impact in this election perhaps is Cuba. The reconciliation between the US and Cuba is inevitable but is intensely opposed by many Cuban Americans. A similar situation exists with Venezuelan Americans, Egyptian Coptic Americans and perhaps also Vietnamese Americans. I see this close up with the passionately anti Islamist pro military Egyptians who view the entire contest in the prism of who will be the bigger supporter of president Sisi of Egypt. 

Trump managed to pull these disparate single issue voters with the grievance voters, people who feel deeply that they have been let down by the elite, the establishment. Trump gave voice to the grievance voters and brought them as foot soldiers fighting for the various single policy issues, passionately so. This is the genius and genesis of the Trump coalition: grievance voters + single issue voters. It is also a major reason why pollsters repeatedly fail to capture the full strength of Trump. 

By contrast the Democratic Party struggles with a form of puritanism and the need for the anti Trump to check every single box to get the support of the Democratic voters. And in the process, the Democrats end up solidifying the support of the Trump single issue voters in ways Trump himself couldn’t have dreamed of. A mainstream traditional Democrat like Biden has been squeezed into being the sharp Anti Trump on a wide range of issues which gives Trump all the ammunition he needs to get all of his single issue voters energized and turning up to vote. Trump voters overlook so much they despise and deeply dislike about him to advance their one critically important cause. 

Lastly, Trump run against the Coronavirus. People are hating the pandemic and how it affected their lives. Trump coopted the COVID19 as an enemy, he run against it, not on policy but as a grievance. He very nearly won!

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