There is a tendency in some political pundit circles to equate on some level actions in European politics with politics here in the United States. It is certainly true that European right wing/nationalist parties have made big gains in many countries, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. Next year, the National Front in France is facing a test of their political clout in a presidential election. And one be remiss if one did not mention the recent Brexit vote in the United Kingdom which was spurred on by the more Right Wing groups and parties there.
Before continuing, there is a world of difference between American and European definitions of “right wing.” There, it is clearly more nativist, nationalist, and populist on certain issues. However, unlike here, there is also an emphasis on maintaining the social welfare state but restricting it to the “natives.” Perhaps on social issues and immigration there is some overlap, but that is where the similarities end.
However, one should not read too much into the Brexit vote outcome as a predictor of how things will work out come Election Day here. One doubts that Trump has the IQ to realize that he is copying the template for right wing gains in Europe, but there are certain similarities which he probably came upon by happenstance. Remember, we are talking about a man who believes he has some expertise in Russian policy because he held the Miss Universe Pageant there one year.
Polls conducted in the United Kingdom after the Brexit vote do show a shifting political axis that mirror polls here. What they show is that those who voted to leave the EU were largely rural, overwhelmingly white, and lacking a college education. They were blue collar workers mainly. This mirrors the base of supporters for Donald Trump almost exactly and in the same proportions found here in many polls. Conversely, those who voted to stay in the EU were college educated, ethnically/racially diverse, and urban. In London, over 60% of voters voted to stay in the EU.
Furthermore, the Brexit supporters were largely pessimistic about the economic future and that of their children and hostile to immigration and a multicultural society and the changing roles of women. Their motivation was one of keeping Great Britain “British” which explains why the Brexit forces lost miserably in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
But here is the problem for Donald Trump: 90% of voters in the United Kingdom are white while only 70% of voters in the United States are white. In the Brexit vote, 53% of whites voted to leave the European Union. If Donald Trump emulates those figures on November 8th, he will lose in a landslide of massive proportions.
Further, if one breaks down the white vote things get even worse for Trump. In political polling dating back to 1952, no Democratic candidate for President has ever won the vote of white college-educated people. Yet, in polls taken thus far this year by a variety of pollsters, every indication is that Hillary Clinton- not Donald Trump- leads in this category of voter.
Donald Trump’s entire primary campaign has been geared towards white, blue-collar workers who feel left behind by the forces of globalization. Trump sought out and exploited fears over immigration, trade deals, and multiculturalism among this segment of the population. The greater the appeal and the stronger the rhetoric, the greater the defection of white, college-educated urban dwellers away from the Republican Party’s nominee for President. These are people who may have gained benefit from the nature of globalization, who may work or live in a multicultural environment and do not see immigrants as a threat. They will be the undoing of Donald Trump and, more ominously, the Republican Party as we know it. Trump has driven them into the arms of Hillary Clinton. The big question going forward is: Did he drive them into the arms of the Democratic Party?
In effect, the political axis in the United States is being re-ordered. The Democrats are becoming a party of college educated, “cosmopolitan,” urban/suburban and ethnically/racially diverse voters. The Trump Republican Party is “traditionalist,” white and decidedly non-urban/rural.
The problem with that in the short-term is that there are simply not enough voters that meet the new GOP criteria to defeat Clinton. For Donald Trump to succeed along this path, he would have to draw about 61% of all white voters nationally. No candidate has ever done that.
It also indicates electoral strategy this year. It is no secret that Trump’s emphasis and path to victory is winning in Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Iowa. Conversely, Clinton has been investing heavily in states like Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and Nevada. Even Arizona could be put in play this year. Thus as Trump looks to the Rust Belt, Clinton looks to the Sun Belt.
But even this foretells problems for the GOP in the future. States in the Rust Belt are the very ones losing population and electoral clout while population gains in the Sun Belt- some fueled by immigration, but mainly by internal migration- are shifting the political dynamic in the United States.
By exploiting cultural affinities, Donald Trump is creating a losing campaign this year and extensive electoral damage to the Republican Party in the future. The best solution is a massive repudiation of Trump at the polls come November. If that entails sacrificing the Presidency to save the Republican Party as a viable conservative alternative to the increasingly Leftist Democratic Party, then so be it. Then reversing the purge of those Trump sent into Clinton’s welcoming arms must be a priority followed by institutional changes and an ideological agenda which makes sure that a Donald Trump is never again a reality.