Donald Trump and the rise and fall of white nationalism

Feb. 17, 2016, 2:35 p.m. | By Maximillian Foley-Keene | 8 years, 3 months ago

Trump is the most likely presidential nominee

At this point in the Republican presidential primary, Donald Trump is the most likely GOP nominee. After a massive victory in New Hampshire, Trump will move on to South Carolina where he holds a double digit lead. Super Tuesday, when a number of populous and powerful states vote on the same day, comes a week later. There is no indication in the polling that Trump will face serious challenges in these states. The moderate-conservative wing of the Republican Party has failed to coalesce behind a single candidate and Trump's chief rival, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, will struggle in states without large evangelical populations.

So this Trump thing might actually happen. He could actually get nominated.

After Trump's huge victory in New Hampshire, liberals seem to have realized that Trump will probably face their pick in the general election. In this realization, the left has arrived at a new emotional stage of Trump. After starting the campaign watching Trump's over-the-top antics with delight, they moved to anger at his racism and sexism, then denial that he could ever actually win the nomination and now, finally: terror.

There's plenty to fear about Donald J. Trump. He's a bully, a sexist and a narcissist. But what's even scarier is the rising movement he represents: white nationalism--a movement defined by white identity and opposed to forces of economic and demographic change. By putting forth a white nationalist candidate, the GOP will no longer be defined by conservative ideology but white identity. This sounds scary. Luckily, Trump cannot win a general election. The demographics simply don't allow it. And by running a white nationalist candidate, the Republicans will learn something: a party based on white identity cannot survive as a national political party in America. They will be forced to change. And this will leave America a better place.

Trump should not be confused with the other conservatives in the GOP race. He diverges from the conservative base on many key issues. He doesn't believe in limited government, he thinks George W. Bush lied to get into Iraq and he has donated to Hillary Clinton. His appeal is not to conservatives (although plenty support him) but to a group of white, working class Americans who are scared and angry about a rapidly changing nation and their diminishing power within it. Trump isn't leading a conservative revolution. He's leading a white populist revolution.

This white nationalism is revealed in Trump's rhetoric. The catchphrase, "Making America Great Again," references a better time in America's past--when whites held more political and economic power. Trump often speaks of "taking our country back." This raises the questions: whose country is "ours," and from whom are "we" taking it? Trump's key campaign issues--a radical stance on illegal immigration and derision for "political correctness"--reinforce this appeal. Both of these issues speak directly to white, working class insecurities. Trump's stance on immigration alleviates white economic angst that immigrants are stealing the jobs of "real" Americans. His contempt for political correctness reveals the fear that non-whites and liberals are preventing Americans from speaking their mind.

Some might be wondering at this point how Trump could possibly be good for America. White nationalism is certainly terrifying. Which is exactly why it needs to be defeated. And Trump will certainly be defeated. Nationally, Trump would be the least popular general election candidate since the advent of political polling. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are far more popular than he is.

Additionally, the demographics of the American electorate make it nearly impossible for Trump to succeed. The past two presidential elections have been decided by what's called the "Obama coalition," a group of voters made up of minorities, college educated whites and single woman. Trump is the least appealing possible candidate to that coalition. Trump has the support of 11 percent of Hispanics. No presidential candidate has won an election in the past 20 years with less than 30 percent Hispanic support. In fact, Trump's incendiary (read: racist) comments about Hispanics could turn out Hispanics to vote against him in far greater numbers than they have in the past. And there's a 16 percent gap between Trump's support among male and female Republicans. That gap should widen among general election voters.

Some say that Trump will be carried to victory by very strong support among white voters. But, based on data from the 2012 election, Republicans would have to receive 64 percent of the white vote and 30 percent of the non-white vote to win a presidential election. For the sake of argument, let's say that Trump wins 30 percent of the non-white vote (unlikely). The only candidate to win 64 percent of the white vote in the past 30 years was Ronald Reagan, a far less divisive figure than Trump. Additionally, 36 percent of whites identify as liberals, who will not turn out for The Donald. For Trump to receive the necessary share of the white vote, he would need to win the votes of all white conservatives and all white moderates in the United States. Donald Trump is not going to be the next President of the United States. If he is nominated, he will lose. Badly.

From Nixon's "Silent Majority" to the embrace of the Tea Party, the modern Republican Party has been flirting with Trump's brand of white populism for a while. Trump's nomination would be a clear referendum on this movement. It gives the American people a chance to strongly rebuke it. After Trump's loss, the Republican Party would be forced to transform, or turn into a fringe party incapable of competing nationally. Trump's nomination--and subsequent defeat--will deal a blow to white nationalism, moderate the GOP and leave America a better place.

Last updated: Dec. 19, 2018, 8:50 a.m.

Tags: Donald Trump tea party Hillary Clinton Ted Cruz Bernie Sanders Presidential primary Republican Party Silent Majority

Maximillian Foley-Keene. Hello! My name is Max and I'm an Editor in Chief for SCO this year. I like writing about what I think, especially current events, American foreign and economic policy. I also like music (jazz and 2000s post-punk are my favorites), art (Wassily Kandinsky is … More »

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