Tag: trump voters
'White Rural Rage: The Threat To American Democracy'

'White Rural Rage: The Threat To American Democracy'

In their new book,White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy, Tom Schaller and Paul Waldman argue that rural white citizens pose an existential, four-fold threat to U.S.democracy. According to their research, rural whites tend to harbor racist, anti-gay, and anti-immigrant views; are unusually conspiracist-minded, as evident in their support for election denialism, anti-science and anti-vaccine COVID beliefs, and Qanon conspiracies; express undemocratic views about presidential power, free speech, white nationalism, and Christian nationalism; and, are most inclined to justify if not call for political violence. None of that would matter so much if not for the longstanding mathematical inflation of that cohort's voting power.

No group was ever dealt a better electoral hand than rural white Americans. The inflated power of rural white voters confers upon them an unusual ability to force state and national governments to cater to their preferences and grievances. Herein lies the danger: Precisely because they wield inflated power, rural whites’ increasingly tenuous commitments to democratic norms and traditions are magnified across the U.S. political system in many of the same ways their preferences have been for two centuries.

The malapportioned Senate assigns more power to smaller, more rural states, and this small-state tilt of malapportionment is greater now than when the U.S. Constitution was ratified. Size and rurality are not identical. Nevada is one of the least rural states, featuring a small statewide populace, two-thirds of whom are packed into the Las Vegas metropolitan area. By contrast, North Carolina has the ninth-largest population, yet it ranks among the most rural states. And the Senate does not merely favor rural residents generally: It specifically assigns greater voting weight to rural whites, especially rural whites without college degrees, who are overconcentrated in smaller, more rural states.

Mathematical Advantage

Given how rural whites without college degrees vote, the rural skew of the malapportioned Senate favors the Republican Party. Following the 2020 election, among the eighteen states with rural populations at or above 30 percent, the three in New England—Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont—boasted a mix of U.S. senators, with one Republican, three Democrats, and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. But these are partisan exceptions. In the remaining fifteen states, from Alaska through West Virginia, twenty-eight of the thirty senators were Republicans.

Republicans have not always enjoyed an advantage among smaller, more rural states. When he examined this question in 2022, political scientist Lee Drutman of the think tank New America found no connection between state population size and partisanship during the first four decades of the twentieth century. Since 1940, however, the smaller states have steadily become more Republican. According to Drutman, at no time since 1950 has the Senate Republican caucus represented states containing the majority of Americans. Yet Senate Republicans wielded majorities for six years each in the 1980s and ’90s, four years during the 2000s, and six more years in the 2010s.

When political scientists Richard Johnson and Lisa Miller in 2022 examined 804 key Senate votes between 1961 and 2019, they found that the outcomes clearly favored conservatives, Republicans, and rural whites in particular. The reason, of course, is that small states have always had much higher shares of white and rural residents than the national average, favoring them in the Senate at the expense of racial minorities.

The Republican Party and its rural white voter base also enjoy a pivotal advantage in presidential elections, which are decided by the Electoral College rather than by a national popular vote as is used in every other democracy in the world. Thanks to the inflated power that smaller states enjoy in the Electoral College, the past two Republican presidents entered the White House despite having lost the popular vote. It’s not just possible but likely that yet another Republican in the near future will win the White House despite receiving fewer votes than their opponent.

We can see how this plays out in practice by comparing the 2016 and 2020 election results. In 2020, Democrat Joe Biden amassed 306 electoral votes, 36 more than the 270 minimum needed to win, while winning the national popular vote by 4.4 percent. Four years earlier, despite losing the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by 2.1 percent, Republican Donald Trump also captured the same total of 306 electors. That’s a net difference of 6.5 percent in the popular vote margins of consecutive winners, yet Trump and Biden won the exact same number of electors—a stunning indictment of how the Electoral College translates votes into victories.

In recent presidential contests, small states Delaware, Hawai’i, Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont have cast their 18 electors reliably for Democratic nominees. But the reliably Republican small states—Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming—cast a combined 48 electors, more than twice as many. The GOP’s advantage in rural states is indisputable: In 2020, Donald Trump won 98 of the 108 combined electoral votes cast by the eighteen most rural states.

Defenders of the Electoral College offer no apologies for its rural, small-state tilt. To them, this bias is a feature, not a bug. In fact, too often defenders of the Electoral College justify its anti-democratic nature by, directly or indirectly, implying that the votes of rural voters should count more because those voters are somehow better than the rest of us.

Mythological Advantage

The increasing geographic polarization between the parties has become a regular topic for national news outlets, yet stories about Republicans’ inability to win in cities are far rarer than stories about Democratic struggles among rural voters. There’s an implicit judgment at work, one that says that Democrats’ failure to win over rural voters is a kind of moral failing, one that can only be bred of insensitivity or contempt. Republicans’ struggles in cities, however, are seldom examined and less often judged; it’s just how things are.

This double standard is reinforced by the fact that journalists are al­ways ready to amplify those few cases in which a Democrat says some­thing dismissive about rural areas and the people who live there. But try to imagine a Democratic state legislator saying that the rural areas where 20 percent of his state’s population lives are a “hellhole” and sponsoring a bill calling for those areas to be spun off into their own state so the rest of the state can be rid of them. Now imagine the Democratic Party mak­ing that legislator their nominee for governor.

That’s what happened in 2022 in Illinois, but with the parties re­versed: Republicans nominated state senator Darren Bailey, who had repeatedly called Chicago a “hellhole” and who introduced a resolution to make it its own state. Bailey’s view of big cities is shared by many conservatives, even some who live in those cities but who see political advantage in encouraging people to fear them. And few people have fed conservative contempt, and myths, about cities more than native New Yorker Donald Trump.

“We have a situation where we have our inner cities, African-Americans, Hispanics are living in hell because it’s so dangerous,” Trump said in a 2016 debate with Hillary Clinton, at a time when crime was the lowest it had been in decades. “You walk down the street, you get shot.” This was a regular theme of Trump’s over the course of his presidency; he would paint a picture that seemed frozen in the 1970s New York of Charles Bronson’s movie Death Wish, in which vicious gangs roving grimy streets terrorized a (white) middle class, a problem Trump said could be solved only with brutal crackdowns.

Denigrating cities and the people who live in them doesn’t come just from Trump. The supposed depravity and danger of American cities is hammered home again and again on conservative media, frequently with the implication that the more Black people a city contains, the more dan­gerous that city must be.

Crime continues to be portrayed as an almost exclusively urban phe­nomenon. When crime rates spiked during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, it led to a wave of media coverage that, in both mainstream and conservative media, focused on cities such as San Francisco and Chi­cago, both supposed to be bastions of liberal values and nightmares of crime. What wasn’t a topic of extended discussion in the media was that fact that at the same time, there was a dramatic crime increase in rural areas, where violent crimes rose 25 percent in 2020.

This narrative of the dangerous (blue) city and the safe (red) rural area has been a staple of conservative rhetoric for so long that it encour­ages Republican politicians to ignore or dismiss the violence suffered by their own constituents, as Oklahoma’s governor Kevin Stitt proved dur­ing his 2022 re-election bid. In a remarkable moment during a televised debate, Stitt literally scoffed when his opponent, Democratic nominee Joy Hofmeister, pointed out that the Sooner State’s violent crime rate is higher than New York’s or California’s. Stitt peered out at the in-person audience, laughed, and said with a huge grin, as if he couldn’t believe his opponent was so dumb, “Oklahomans, do you believe we have higher crime than New York or California? That’s what she just said!” But Hof­meister was right: According to the CDC, the homicide rate in Okla­homa at the time was 9 per 100,000 people, while in California, it was 6.1, and in New York, it was 4.7. And Oklahoma’s violent crime rate has been higher than either New York or California for two decades.

Contrast those statements with Barack Obama’s memorable 2008 com­ment about people in small towns clinging to guns and religion. What really matters about that incident is how right Obama was. In fact, he offered an insightful analysis of how the events of recent de­cades had altered the nature of political identity among whites in rural areas and small towns, saying that in small towns, jobs have disappeared “and each successive administration has said that somehow these communi­ties are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surpris­ing then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

The resignation Obama was describing is an enormous gift to Republicans, who even as they win elections, re­main the targets of well-earned suspicion from poor and working-class voters around the country (not just in rural areas) over whether they have those voters’ economic interests at heart. If Republicans don’t need to convince those voters that conservative economics works for them, but can merely say that Democrats are indifferent to their plight, the GOP’s work is almost complete.

Excerpted with permission fromWhite Rural Rage: The Threat To American Democracy (Penguin RandomHouse 2024).

Tom Schaller is a professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. A former columnist for The Baltimore Sun, he is the author or co-author of four other books, including Common Enemies, The Stronghold, and Whistling Past Dixie. Paul Waldman is a former columnist at The Washington Post and the author or co-author of four previous books on media and politics, including Being Right Is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn from Conservative Success and The Press Effect: Politicians, Journalists, and the Stories that Shape the Political World.

Will Trump’s Voters Ever Grow Tired Of His Lies?

Will Trump’s Voters Ever Grow Tired Of His Lies?

In the days and weeks following the 2020 election, a host of subordinates told Donald Trump a simple truth that he did not want to hear: He had lost the election fair and square. There was no widespread fraud, no massive irregularities, no hope in a recount. But he insisted on maintaining the fiction that the election was stolen.

At Monday's hearing of the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol, one Trump subordinate after another was heard in recorded depositions dismissing his claims. Once under oath, aides who had faithfully served and defended him had to acknowledge his utter disdain for the truth.

They obviously got weary of listening to his baseless fulminations. But the more important question is: Do Trump's voters ever get tired of being lied to?

That's a question that has been pondered for the past seven years, and the answer has always been "no." No presidential candidate has ever been so transparent or relentless in trying to deceive. None has ever been so successful at fooling his followers and profiting from their gullibility.

The fraud was obvious from the start. A central theme of Trump's 2016 campaign was the promise to build a wall on our southern border and make Mexico pay for it. At his rallies, adoring crowds chanted, "Build The Wall."

Early in his term, a transcript leaked documenting his phone call with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, in which he pleaded pathetically for help in maintaining this fantasy: "The fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall — I have to."

Pena Nieto refused. In four years, Trump built only a tiny portion of his wall, and Mexico didn't pay for it. But the failure didn't matter to Trump's followers.

His presidency was a nonstop parade of lies, beginning on Inauguration Day, when he sent his press secretary out to make false claims about the size of the crowd at his swearing-in.

He also lied about important matters, as when he said he had gotten North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to agree to give up his nuclear weapons. He said he would "force the Iranians back to the bargaining table to make a much better deal" than the nuclear agreement he renounced in 2018.

He promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a program that provided health insurance for "everybody" that would be "much less expensive and much better." He promised a massive investment in infrastructure to "fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, school, hospitals."

In his inaugural address, Trump railed against "the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives" and declared, "This American carnage stops right here and stops right now." But the rate of murders and other violent crime was higher when he left office than when he arrived. If Trump said something would happen, you could be sure it would not.

His insistence that the election was stolen was just another con. His own attorney general and campaign manager, among others, told him to give it up, but he refused.

"There was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were," said former Attorney General William Barr, who regarded Trump's allegations as "crazy stuff," "nonsense," "rubbish" and "bulls—-."

This is the same Barr who staunchly defended Trump after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's damning report on Russia's interference in the 2016 election — and who says he would vote for him again.

Trump didn't let the facts deter him from incessantly deceiving his fans — or from using that deception to separate them from their money.

He asked them for donations, supposedly to finance his preposterous efforts to reverse the election results. They gave $250 million. But the "Official Election Defense Fund," the January 6 committee found, didn't exist. His donors were doubly defrauded.

But do Trump's supporters care? Up to now, they've paid no attention to his self-serving duplicity. A January Rasmussen Reports poll found that 85 percent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of him. A recent UMass Amherst poll found that 55 percent of GOP voters would vote for him in the 2024 primaries.

These voters don't say: Stop telling us lies. They say: Give us more. If that's what they want, he will never disappoint them.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

​Trump Maga Rally in Charlotte, North Carolina

Do Newspapers Really Need More Misleading "Trump Voter" Profiles?

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Old habits die hard.

After four years of settling into a lazy practice of treating Trump voters as inherently newsworthy and deserving of constant friendly news coverage, some outlets are having trouble breaking free of the routine three months into the Biden era. Even after the insurrectionist mob, stocked with Trump loyalists, tried to overturn an election.

This week it was the Washington Post, which inexplicably published a long piece that served simply as a laundry list of quotes from Trump supporters and Republican politicians trashing President Joe Biden's new $2 trillion infrastructure proposal:

• "It's got too much junk in it."

• "It's too much."

• "The wrong prescription for America."

• "It's a coverup for wasteful spending by our government."

• "It's a Christmas list of wasteful schemes radical liberals pushed for long before the pandemic."

The Post felt it was important to fan out across the country and record the objections without offering any counter balance.

Meanwhile, how many Biden voter stories are we seeing, even as the Democrat is riding a robust approval wave? Biden just signed into law the most popular social spending bill in more than 50 years. The U.S. jobs market is roaring back to life as the vaccination rollout continues to post astonishing results, with four million shots now being administered each day. (The U.S.'s runaway vaccination rate is five times faster than the global average.)

Yet reporters still aren't sitting down with diner Democrats in blue states to document just how much they love the new president, the way they did for four years amplifying Trump voters at every possible chance. In the span of just four days in early 2017, the New York Times published a long profile on women who voted for Trump, a piece on Trump fans who traveled to the inauguration, and an adoring profile of a Trump voter who lied about Hillary Clinton during the campaign and profited from his fake news business.

I lost count how many Trump Voter articles the Times published, but it certainly numbered in the dozens. (Here's one from just three months ago.) Even a Trump supporter who had nice things to say about Nazis received a gentle Times profile. Committed to the idea that Trump's white backers were the most important, and most authentic, voices in American politics, the media spent four years glorifying them, marveling at their loyalty in the face of Trump's erratic behavior.

Why newsrooms ever thought that 'Trump Voters Support Trump' articles made for compelling reading, we'll never know. But they did. And now to be fair they ought to be churning out 'Biden Voters Support Biden' dispatches. Biden today is more popular with Democrats than Trump ever was with Republicans, even though the press portrayed Trump as having a magical, unbreakable bond with the GOP "base."

Instead of Biden Voter stories, we get entirely misguided Republican updates like the recent one from the Post.

Let's look at three wrong-headed assertions from the Post piece, crammed into a single paragraph. [Emphasis added]:

But any window for cooperation appears to have already closed for Republicans in Congress — and it may be closing for GOP voters, as well. Interviews with dozens of voters in three swing congressional districts across the country revealed evidence that attacks on the spending push are beginning to take hold, and congressional Republicans said they are well positioned to capitalize on voter doubts and win their way back to power in 2022.

1. Forget about the GOP "window for cooperation" now supposedly closing for the infrastructure plan. The idea it ever existed is pure fantasy. The Post makes it seem like the Republican Party today is stocked with fair-minded men and women who of course, want to give Biden a chance and approach each new initiative with an open mind and the country's best interest at heart. In reality, the Republican Party has embraced a radical strategy where complete obstruction serves as the norm, even on issues where Republican voters support Democrats.

We just saw that with the Covid relief bill, where a clear majority of Republicans nationwide backed the emergency bill — and not one elected Republican in the House or the Senate voted 'Yes.' Yet just weeks later the Post pretends Republicans are all ears when it comes to listening to Biden infrastructure proposal?

2. The Post didn't interview dozens of "voters" in three swing congressional districts to get the nation's temperature on the proposed infrastructure bill, the Post interviewed Republicans. Of the six voters quoted in the article, not one is identified as a Biden supporter. The Post also quoted four Republican Congressmen — and zero Democratic members of Congress.

3. The Post amplifies the absurd Republican spin that the one-week-old infrastructure proposal is going to cost Democrats control of the House in two years — it's absurd because nobody has any idea what the defining issues of the 2022 midterm election cycle are going to be. Pretending that an infrastructure proposal, which is popular in the polls, is going to be a loser for Democrats is just regurgitating Republican talking points.

Our political landscape has shifted under the weight of a popular Democratic president. The press needs to drop those old, useless Trump habits, fast.

Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville

New Report Depicts Trump Voters As ‘Angry, Despondent, Powerless’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville, who has been married to conservative consultant Mary Matalin since 1993, has long said that in order to defeat Republicans, Democrats need to understand where their voters are coming from. That includes Donald Trump supporters, who Carville and fellow Democratic strategist Stan Greenberg examined via some focus groups in March.

Carville and Greenberg are the leaders of Democracy Corps, a Democratic polling/research organization. Although its primary goal is to help Democrats win elections, Democracy Corps sometimes studies GOP voters in order to determine why they vote the way they do — its Republican Party Project has been studying trends among the GOP electorate. And in March, Democracy Corps used focus groups to compare diehard Trump voters with "non-Trump conservatives and moderates."

In a March 26 report, Democracy Corps explained, "We conducted focus groups in March with Trump loyalists in Georgia and Wisconsin and Trump-aligned, non-Trump conservatives and moderates in suburban and rural Georgia, Ohio and Wisconsin. It took a long time to recruit these groups because Trump voters seemed particularly distrustful of outsiders right now, wary of being victimized, and avoided revealing their true position until in a Zoom room with all Trump voters — then, they let it all out."

Democracy Corps found that "the Trump loyalists and Trump-aligned were angry, but also, despondent, feeling powerless and uncertain they will become more involved in politics…. The Trump loyalists and the Trump-aligned are animated about government taking away their freedom and a cancel culture that leaves no place for White Americans and the fear they're losing 'their' country to non-Whites."

Democracy Corps also found that "Trump loyalists and the Trump- aligned" were "angered most of all by Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Antifa" and believe those movements "were responsible for a full year of violence in Democratic cities that put White people on the defensive — and was ignored by the media."

Meanwhile, Democracy Corps found "the non-Trump conservatives and moderates bloc" to be "marginally smaller but vocal in opposition to Trump's direction and animated by his alienation of non-Republicans, the extremism, the 2nd Amendment and guns, and role of government and more."

During the 2020 election, President Joe Biden enjoyed a broad range of support. Everyone from progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City to prominent conservatives like Cindy McCain, former Sen. Jeff Flake, and columnist Mona Charen endorsed him. But diehard Trump voters were bitterly disappointed that he lost the election, and Democracy Corps' focus groups found that they are in a state of total despair.

Democracy Corps explained, "They felt powerless to reverse these important national political decisions, and frustrated that their divided party failed to act with the same determination and unity as the Democrats. They believed Democrats were smarter, rigged the election, had a plan to grow their support, and stuck to their guns — unlike the fickle Republican leaders who gave up on Trump."

Democracy Corps found that the "Trump loyalist" voters didn't feel threatened by Biden himself the way they felt threatened by President Barack Obama — as Biden is a White male in his late seventies. But they viewed Biden as a puppet of the far left. Meanwhile, the "non-Trump conservatives and moderates" expressed a willingness to give Biden a chance.

"The moderates and non-Trump conservatives are just 30 percent of their party, but it makes clear how divided the Republican Party is," Democracy Corps explained. "They know they are a minority, but events since the 2020 election are forcing them to challenge Trump and his party."

Democracy Corps concluded its report on the focus groups by stressing that opponents of Trumpism need to understand the divisions among conservatives.

"Forestalling the worst scenarios and empowering those intent on marginalizing a Trump-dominated Republican Party begins with understanding its new factions and what motivates them," Democracy Corps concluded. "These first focus groups provide rich insights into an angry, despondent and divided party. And Democracy Corps hopes to use these groups and innovative survey methodologies to understand this Trump-dominated party and all its factions and provide its opponents with the tools they need to defeat it."

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